VIOLENCE AND POLITICS IN VENEZUELA

Latin America Report N°38 – 17 August 2011

TABLE OF CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ...................................................................................................... i I.  INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................. 1  II.  ROOTS OF VIOLENCE .................................................................................................. 2  III. THE RISE IN VIOLENCE UNDER CHÁVEZ ............................................................. 3 
A.  GROWING CRIMINAL VIOLENCE...................................................................................................3  B.  INTERNATIONAL ORGANISED CRIME ............................................................................................6  C.  POLITICAL VIOLENCE ................................................................................................................10 

IV. ARMED GROUPS: COMBINING CRIME, VIOLENCE AND POLITICS............ 12 
A.  COLOMBIAN GUERRILLAS ..........................................................................................................12  B.  BOLIVARIAN LIBERATION FORCES .............................................................................................16  C.  THE URBAN COLECTIVOS ...........................................................................................................17 

V.  INSTITUTIONAL DECAY ............................................................................................ 19 
A.  IMPUNITY...................................................................................................................................20  B.  THE POLICE ...............................................................................................................................20  C.  THE MILITARY ...........................................................................................................................23  D.  THE MILITIAS ............................................................................................................................26 

VI. CONFLICT RISKS ......................................................................................................... 27  VII.  CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................... 30  APPENDICES A. MAP OF VENEZUELA ........................................................................................................................31 B. GLOSSARY .......................................................................................................................................32 C. ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP ....................................................................................33 D. CRISIS GROUP REPORTS AND BRIEFINGS ON LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN SINCE 2008 .....34 E. CRISIS GROUP BOARD OF TRUSTEES ................................................................................................35

Latin America Report N°38

17 August 2011

VIOLENCE AND POLITICS IN VENEZUELA EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Every half hour, a person is killed in Venezuela. The presence of organised crime combined with an enormous number of firearms in civilian hands and impunity, as well as police corruption and brutality, have entrenched violence in society. While such problems did not begin with President Hugo Chávez, his government has to account for its ambiguity towards various armed groups, its inability or unwillingness to tackle corruption and criminal complicity in parts of the security forces, its policy to arm civilians “in defence of the revolution”, and – last but not least – the president’s own confrontational rhetoric. Positive steps such as constructive engagement with Colombia as well as some limited security reform do not compensate for these failures. While the prospect of presidential elections in 2012 could postpone social explosion, the deterioration of the president’s health has added considerable uncertainty. In any event, the degree of polarisation and militarisation in society is likely to undermine the chances for either a non-violent continuation of the current regime or a peaceful transition to a post-Chávez era. A significant part of the problem was inherited from previous administrations. In 1999, the incoming President Chávez was faced with a country in which homicide rates had tripled in less than two decades, and many institutions were in the process of collapse, eroded by corruption and impunity. During the “Bolivarian revolution”, however, these problems have become substantially worse. Today, more than ten people are murdered on the streets of Caracas every day – the majority by individual criminals, members of street gangs or the police themselves – while kidnapping and robbery rates are soaring. By attributing the problem to “social perceptions of insecurity”, or structural causes, such as widespread poverty, inherited from past governments, the government is downplaying the magnitude and destructive extent of criminal violence. The massive, but temporary, deployment of security forces in highly visible operations, and even police reform and disarmament programs, will have little impact if they are not part of an integrated strategy to reduce crime, end impunity and protect citizens. The presence of international organised crime groups is also nothing new, but there is evidence of increased activity during the past decade that in turn has contributed not only to the rise in homicides, kidnappings and extortion rates, but also to a growth in micro drug trafficking, making poor and urban neighbourhoods more violent. Venezuela has become a major drug trafficking corridor, and different groups, including Colombian guerrillas, paramilitaries and their successors, have been joined by mafia gangs from Mexico and elsewhere in benefiting from widespread corruption and complicity on the part of security forces, some of it seemingly tolerated by individuals in the highest spheres of government. The government has displayed a particular ambiguity toward non-state armed groups that sympathise with its political project. Urban “colectivos” combining political and criminal activities, including armed actions against opposition targets, operate largely unchallenged and with broad impunity. The Bolivarian Liberation Forces have established control over parts of the border with Colombia, while the FARC and ELN guerrillas from the other side have long found shelter and aid on Venezuelan soil. In the context of the rapprochement between Presidents Chávez and Santos, the cost-benefit ratio behind the unacknowledged alliance between Colombian guerrillas and the Venezuelan government appears to have changed. However, it is still too early to be certain whether the government is willing and able to translate positive commitments and some initial promising steps into effective, sustainable action against such groups. Violence and corruption have been facilitated by a steady process of institutional erosion that has become particularly manifest in the justice system and the security forces. While impunity levels soar, highly dysfunctional and abusive police have endangered citizen security. Heavily politicised, the armed forces are increasingly seen as part of the problem, enmeshed with organised crime and pressed by the president to commit themselves to the partisan defence of his “revolution”. The creation, arming and training of pro-governmental militias further increase the danger that political differences may ultimately be settled outside the constitutional framework, through deadly force.

Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38, 17 August 2011

Page ii

In this highly charged environment, political violence has so far remained more a latent threat than a reality. However, as the country heads into what promises to be a fiercely contested presidential election, with very high stakes for both sides, this fragile equilibrium may not hold. Moreover, uncertainties provoked by the president’s illness have compounded short- and medium-term prospects. The greatest danger is likely to come after the election, regardless of who wins, since the entrenched levels of violence are prone to undermine either peaceful regime continuity, hand-over to a successor or any transitional arrangement. Moreover, whatever the political complexion of a future government, the extensive presence of organised crime networks is likely to seriously threaten medium- and longterm stability. The necessary actions to avoid that scenario must begin with a commitment by all sides to peaceful constitutional means of conflict resolution and with effective government measures to disarm and dismantle criminal structures, restore the rule of law and root out corruption in state institutions.

Bogotá/Brussels, 17 August 2011

the president is now suspected of tolerating the complicity of elements of the security forces and senior members of the ruling party with criminal organisations in exchange for loyalty. 1 For a review of political. Justicia y Paz. January 2011. the politicisation of the security forces and the militarisation of society – has had on violence.2 “Estudio comparativo de la incidencia de homicidio doloso en ciudades y jurisdicciones sub-nacionales de los países del mundo (2010)”. INTRODUCTION Venezuela has become one of the most violent countries in the world. In Venezuela. see Crisis Group Latin America Briefing Nº22.1 Yet. has become inherent to its political project.Latin America Report N°38 17 August 2011 VIOLENCE AND POLITICS IN VENEZUELA I. as the recourse to violence becomes more and more entrenched in society. fight organised and common crime and protect the population. Táchira and Apure and in Bogotá.2 million inhabitants (2010). forthcoming. this report analyses the nature. During its field research for the present report. With field research carried out in Caracas. According to the NGO Venezuelan Violence Observatory (Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia. Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution. the killings are not primarily an expression of political violence. but its requests were not granted. children die as a result of a stray bullet from one of the millions of firearms in civilian hands. people are killed for a cell phone. 2 . OVV) in 2008 its homicide rate was 127 per 100. Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal. It explains the effects that the steady decline of the country’s institutions – reflected in impunity. economic and social developments that have fuelled polarisation as well as social tensions. Crisis Group repeatedly requested opportunity to speak with government officials. extent and roots of the escalation of criminal violence in Venezuela. while failing to act decisively against armed groups that sympathise with his socialist project. It explores the links between growing violence and the ambiguity of the government’s relationship with multiple armed groups. The metropolitan district of Caracas has 3. or the threat of it. The arming by the government of tens of thousands of civilians to defend the revolution raises the question to what extent violence. Venezuela is not engaged in a civil war. 5 November 2009. Seguridad. the report examines the risk of a serious outbreak of political violence.000 inhabitants. After almost twelve years of President Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”. more than ten people are killed on the streets of Caracas every day. Having come to power with the promise to clean up corruption. mounting security problems threaten a regime that seems unable but in part also unwilling to safeguard military and law enforcement institutions against criminal influences and corruption. And despite the extremely polarised national political scene over the past decade. the border states of Zulia. and youngsters are victims of police brutality or the settling of accounts between gangs in poor neighbourhoods. “Número de Homicidios por cada 100 mil Habitantes por entidad federal en Venezuela. On average. Finally. and the country faces not only the possibility of further polarisation in the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections but also is strained by uncertainties over the president’s health. período 2008”. nor does it face an armed insurgency or a foreign military challenge.

In the former. albeit markedly worse than a decade earlier. the system was unable to cope with a prolonged decline in that revenue. But by the time Chávez took over the presidency. Julia Buxton.000 inhabitants – average by world standards – and had remained virtually unchanged for decades. 41. nor were corruption and impunity. following decades of relative stability. dominated by the social democrats of Acción Democrática and the Christian democrats of Copei.6 Crime. 2010. Nonetheless. July-September 2007. In the latter. in 1999. 559-560.4 were breakdowns in the relationship between the security forces and society. who argues that it was a deal between elites that excluded the poor and less centrist political movements.5 per cent. the homicide rate was around eight per 100. violence. The so-called Punto Fijo pact ushered in this period. but of two major “step changes” – one in 1989. common and organised. members of the armed forces sought to overthrow a democratically-elected government. ROOTS OF VIOLENCE Violence in Venezuela did not begin with Hugo Chávez. 3 Roberto Briceño-León. the rate had tripled. political disintegration was already underway. remained roughly comparable with that in Mexico or Brazil and much lower than in conflict-torn Colombia. no. Venezuela for the first time experienced several decades of civilian-led democratically-elected governments. best defined as the belief that politicians were by nature corrupt. Laboratorio de Ciencias Sociales. stability was to an extent a mirage. 17 August 2011 Page 2 II.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. vol. p. XLVII. This paved the way for the election of the former coup leader. Caracas. troops brought onto the streets to control the riots fired indiscriminately. was by no means absent from pre-Chávez Venezuela. killing several hundred. Roberto Briceño-León. the other in 1992. 2001). Chávez came to power explicitly committed to tackling pervasive corruption in both public and private sectors and in particular to cleaning up the judiciary. looting and military repression sparked by a government austerity package. OVV.3 The first sharp upturn followed the so-called Caracazo. “Violencia. It can be argued that it was this process of breakdown that unleashed the latent violence in society. Both the Caracazo and the coups. 3. By 1992 this was 66. In the 1980s. Indeed. “Puntofijismo” is used as a term of abuse by Hugo Chávez. powerpoint presentation. which led to support for outsiders. pp. as it led to a collapse of the social pact that had helped ensure the peace- ful resolution of conflicts. Ciudadanía y Miedo en Caracas”. The second came in the wake of two failed military coups led by the then-Lieutenant Colonel Chávez. with 27 per cent in extreme poverty. several days of rioting. The Failure of Political Reform in Venezuela (Aldershot. “Diez años de violencia en Venezuela”. 5 Following the 1948-1958 military dictatorship. which had acquired a reputation for venality. 37 per cent of the population lived in poverty. according to official figures. Prior to the Chávez government. social indicators began to deteriorate markedly in the 1980s. 6 . 1989 and 1992 were milestones in the process of institutional erosion that accompanied the demise of the 1958-1998 political model (sometimes known as puntofijismo5) and the rise of “anti-politics”. This came not as a result of a steady rise. Excessively dependent on oil revenue to maintain social spending. In 1987. El Colegio de México. Foro Internacional. 4 As was later evident.

Another crime that has exponentially increased since 2000 is kidnapping. 2010.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. “Encuesta de Victimización y Percepción de Seguridad Ciudadana 2009”. non-governmental figures were topped by those of the National Statistics Institute (INE). 2) Vargas (101.. 21 November 2010. cit. 7 “Venezuela es el centro del secuestro en Latinoamérica. this is a homicide rate of 61 per 100. the states with the highest homicide rates per 100.000 inhabitants.13 reflecting the largely uncontrolled circulation of arms in civilian hands.08) governed by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela. “Situación de los Derechos Humanos”. The numbers are based on surveys and interviews. 3) Carabobo (78.com/. but also of robberies and kidnappings. Informe Anual Octubre 2009-Septiembre 2010”.10 Beginning to grow at high rates in 2007. around 12 million illegal arms circulate in the country. iraqbodycount. “Amnistía Internacional: Hay ‘total descontrol’ de armas en Venezuela”. 31. the ever growing presence of organised crime has indirectly and directly contributed. Informe Anual Octubre 2009-Septiembre 2010”. 10 . Roberto Briceño-León. El Universal. Commissioner Wilmer Flores Trosel. male. cit. OVV). pp. moreover. pp. op. 16 September 2010. journalist. noticias 24. there were 688 kidnappings in 2009. 19 January 2009. and cases registered as “resistance to authority” (2. so often involve ties to more organised crime structures.7 In 2009. 2009). 68. GROWING CRIMINAL VIOLENCE According to the NGO Venezuelan Violence Observatory (Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia.550 to 17. Colombian presidency. http://crimenessincastigo. 2010. urban and poor. 8 “Encuesta de Victimización y Percepción de Seguridad Ciudadana 2009 (ENVPSC-2009)”. The OVV projected 13. Globovisión. Crisis Group interview. com. 14 According to the Venezuelan section of Amnesty International. General Oscar Naranjo. ie. Over 70 per cent of homicide victims are between fifteen and 29 years old. more than double Colombia’s and more than four times Iraq’s.000 cases between July 2008 and July 2009.24 per cent of all crimes. conventional kidnappings target their victims and.047 in 2009. 13 79 per cent of homicides but also 74 per cent of robberies and 79 per cent of kidnappings projected by the INE survey involved firearms. “Número de Homicidios”. “Homicidios son la primera causa de muerte entre jóvenes”. 19 July 2010. which were 14. 19 January 2011. cit.69) governed by the opposition. “Un plagio cada dos días desde 1999”.12 The vast majority of homicides. crime rates have increased exponentially since 1999. Crímenes sin Castigo. 358.113 homicides based on a broad survey of victims. 17 August 2011 Page 3 III.8 The INE numbers made for a homicide rate of 75 per 100. The differences between the OVV and INE numbers can be attributed to the fact that the former do not include “deaths under investigation”. 73. p. 12 According to the INE survey.917 total. 357-358. In a country of 29 million.. 30 October 2010. While the people behind the guns are largely individual delinquents. frontrunners include states governed by the government party and the opposition alike. según prensa”.000 inhabitants. See also Maolis Castro. Civilis. require greater logistical capacities. According to the director of the Venezuelan investigative police (CICPC). thereby converting Venezuela into one of the most dangerous countries in the world and homicide into the first cause of death for its young people. op. p. Informe 2008 (Caracas. p. p. although lines between the criminal and the political have become increasingly blurred.685 in 2009). Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas (INE). María Isoliett Iglesias. less than a day).000 inhabitants are 1) the metropolitan district (Caracas. p. Olga Ávila. op. which projected 19.15 This underlines that the problem is deeply and historically rooted and not primarily dependent on the person occupy- A. www. “Venezuela registró 17. While the victim of the express-type tends to be random. in January 2009. op. press release. By contrast and despite the polarised nature of politics and society. cit. May 2010. El Nacional. informe21.055 rural and urban households.420.blogspot. The difference between INE and CICPC figures is in the high number of unreported cases. The survey covered 20. 126. 9 According to the director of the Colombian National Police. 417. 15 According to the OVV. homicides almost quadrupled between 1998 and 2010. “Situación de los Derechos Humanos en Venezuela. from 4. “Amenazas y Restricciones a los Derechos Humanos y la Democracia en Venezuela. which according to the human rights NGO Provea were 4. the government decided not to go public. Informe Comprehensivo de Seguimiento Enero-Septiembre 2010”. Caracas. 30 December 2010. THE RISE IN VIOLENCE UNDER CHÁVEZ The trend of rising criminal violence did not stop when Chávez took office.985 homicides in 2007 and 16. “Situación de los Derechos Humanos en Venezuela. “La encuesta de victimización y el costo social del secuestro”. INE projected almost 17. Javier Mayorca.org/analysis/numbers/2009/.9 Once aware of the numbers. “Cifra de homicidios disminuyó en 45% desde 2002 hasta la fecha”.600 per year. The top stratum was hit by only 2.18) governed by the PSUV. 11 The INE projections include the so-called secuestro express (express-kidnappings. the level of open political violence has so far remained limited.000. 23 November 2010. Provea.85) governed by the opposition.004 of the 16. over 80 per cent of homicide victims in 2009 were from the two lowest social strata. most of them unreported to the authorities. involve guns..11 Victims and perpetrators alike are predominantly young. Inseguridad y violencia en Venezuela. 4) Barinas (60.205 in 2009. Iraq’s 2009 homicide rate is based on data from the Iraq body count project. Colombia’s homicide rate was 33/100. but the study was leaked and received broad coverage. 70.14 While homicide rates vary among the different Venezuelan states.600 homicidios en 2010 según Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia”. Alberto Camardiel. PSUV). members of smaller criminal gangs or even police officers.

68 per cent for corruption.latinobarometro. the investigative police (CICPC) closed its press office. 26 Ludmila Vinogradoff.25 The official silence was broken. La Voz. 2008. only 31 per cent of victims filed a complaint. journalists. insecurity became overwhelmingly perceived as the most important problem after 2003.org/. 148. the national government controls all other principal institutions in charge of crime prevention. and by police agents themselves. 16 Crisis Group interview. The average homicide rate for Latin America is 25. Reuters. ABC. Crisis Group interview. 9 November 2010. “they [the authorities] would not do anything with the complaint”. FLACSO. After a court decision on 18 August 2010 that banned the publication of violent photos. security expert. 106.18 The majority of ordinary crimes are allegedly committed by “hampa común” (individual delinquents or small community-based gangs consisting of five to ten members on average). however. still far below most non-government estimates. cit.4 per cent).6/100. 28 February 2011. 28 February 2011. the National Police. Chile. 17 August 2011 Page 4 ing the governor’s seat. 77. such as morgues and hospitals. Insecurity is perceived as the country’s biggest problem. when Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Assaimi for the first time in many years responded to questions from opposition deputies in the National Assembly in January 2011. salaries (1997-2000) and education (1995-96). the government has tended to blame the problem on While sub-national governments control municipal and state police forces. Caracas. Bogotá. According to Latinobarometro. www. over 50 per cent of victims said they received no institutional support. such as the investigative police.26 When it comes to interpreting these numbers. arguably to protect children. but withdrew the second part of the order. 23 “Venezuela bans papers from printing violent photos”. At the time (2005). existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences … in order to obtain. as only 18 per cent of victims said they had received any institutional assistance after the crime. 25 Crisis Group interview. Article 2 (a). stating that there were 13. Local bands include rank and file members (“robots”). 21 CICPC is the acronym for Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas. CICPC is under the interior and justice ministry. security expert. the institution was known as the Policía Técnica Judicial (PTJ). depriving journalists of an important source of information.19 A substantial portion of the homicides is a product of the fight for control of local territory or acts of revenge (ajuste de cuentas) among gangs with a high probability of collateral damage in their respective neighbourhoods. security experts.23 journalists have been reporting increasingly restricted access to relevant installations. “Encuesta de Victimización”. “Cada mes hampa se roba 100 mil celulares”. mostly for individuals but also on occasions at the request of organised crime groups..16 The situation has taken on dimensions that surpass hospital and morgue capacities. cit. Asked the reasons for not reporting. Lucia Dammert. This report differentiates between smaller community-based gangs (hampa común) and more organised criminal structures that operate at a broader territorial level (organised crime). 10 February 2011.894 homicides the previous year and admitting an above Latin American average homicide rate of 48 per 100. 23 November 2010. directly or indirectly. op. 11 per cent said. the predominant role of the national government in crime prevention and control cannot be ignored. Caracas. 22. 75. journalist. a financial or other material benefit”. Some gangs carry out contract killings (sicariato). In 2005. 13 April 2011. Eric Alda and Felipe Ruz. 20 . 9 June 2011. 27 per cent said. however. Penales y Criminalísticas.20 Official crime statistics are notoriously lacking. Yohana Marra. above whom is a caguán (the bridge to organised crime). According to the NGO Paz Activa. Caracas. “Desafíos de la seguridad ciudadana en Iberoamérica”. Caracas. Caracas. 23 November 2010. 19 Ibid. pp. pp. the National Guard and other armed forces and the intelligence services. p. 100. The UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (Palermo Convention) defines an organised criminal group as a “structured group of three or more persons. The court initially banned publication of both violent photos and related stories. 23 November 2010. On average. These answers seemed to be based on experience.B below. 189.000 cell phones are stolen each month. The court decision (twelfth Caracas tribunal) followed publication of a photo in El Nacional of dead bodies lying haphazardly in an obviously overcrowded morgue. Crisis Group interviews. Annex 1. overtaking unemployment (2001-2003).22 Monitoring developments in the morgues is often the only possibility for journalists to access homicides figures. see Section V. 68-69. 18 August 2010. with over 90 per cent of the population evaluating their personal security situation as serious or very serious. In homicide cases.21 The interior and justice ministry stopped publishing crime statistics in 2004. journalist. including national and international structures.. At the same time. For police violence. 18 January 2011. A considerably higher percentage of the relatively well-off call the personal security situation very serious (72. 24 Crisis Group interview. op.17 Relatively few crimes are formally reported to the authorities. 18 Complaint levels ranged from 83 per cent for homicide to 1.45 per cent) than do the most affected stratum (59. Crisis Group interview. criminologist. p. “Venezuela registra el índice más alto de homicidios en América Latina”. “they would not accept the complaint”. The capacity required to process such numbers surpasses the capabilities of local gangs and requires help from more organised structures.24 Morgue officials are said to offer accelerated proceedings to victims’ relatives if they do not talk to journalists.000. 17 “Encuesta de Victimización”. who take orders from a leader (pran). almost 40 per cent of the respondents said their complaint would either not be accepted or have no consequence.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. 22 Crisis Group email communication.000 inhabitants.

without explaining what this calculation was based on. the government launched the “Integrated National Plan for Prevention and Citizen Security”. 5. property. 31 “Presidente Chávez anuncia implementación de Dispositivo Bicentenario de Seguridad Ciudadana en 10 entidades del país”.32 The initiative has been criticised because of the leading role of the military – the National Guard heads it – and became particularly controversial with the government’s announcement in June 2010 that it would incorporate 800 militia members. Gaceta Oficial no. 30 . 27 August 2010. com/watch?v=QeTlE7CcQQM. there has been progress only on police reform (see Section V. “Venezuela: Comisión para desarme realiza primer encuentro”. a joint operation of law enforcement agencies30 originally designed to last only nine months. the president said. Munitions and Disarmament. according to the government. 29 “Situación de los Derechos Humanos”. “Sensación’ de inseguridad”. 7 June 2011. According to the human rights NGO Provea. So far. 17 August 2011 Page 5 the manipulation of figures by opposition agents. according to National Guard General Antonio Benavides. national anti-narcotics office.34 A disarmament bill that passed its first reading in the National Assembly in January 2010 is to be On 13 July 2009.27 The reference to structural problems has allowed the president to reinforce ties with his constituency. the intelligence agency. The national police statutory law (Ley Orgánica del Servicio de Policía y del Cuerpo de Policía Nacional). the massive and temporary deployment of security forces in particularly affected areas. 11 August 2010. www. In August 2010. Prensa Latina. DIBISE). p. op. state. the government launched the Bicentenary Security Mechanism (Dispositivo Bicentenario de Seguridad. Patricia Arias. Correo del Orinoco. tasks the police with protecting the “free exercise of human rights. 6 November 2001. pp. Aporrea (www. 5 February 2010.B) is the most important security sector reform in recent years. Gaceta Oficial no. “Cuatro subcomisiones trabajan para el desarme”. “Mandato Policial y Conceptos de la Seguridad en América Latina”. policies.31 31. 9 April 2008. in June 2011. Despite a comprehensive legal and institutional framework as well as ambitious plans. Viva Rio. op. In January 2010..550 officers were deployed to locations in ten states in which. 362. Vice Minister for the Integrated Police System Edgar Barrientos announced that homicide rates in DIBISE areas had been reduced by 50 per cent. Numbers are never sustained and never match with non-state monitoring. After three months.895. 6 June 2011. DIBISE was “re-launched” in March 2011 without an indication of an enddate. The militias assumed DIBISE duties in three Libertador municipality parishes. repressive and poorly integrated approaches without sufficiently concrete objectives and indicators to monitor progress. the ombudsman.org). 37-39. security expert. 37. municipal and transit police. control alcohol consumption and school violence and ensure road security. cit. “Las risas de Izarra en CNN por la cantidad de muertos en Venezuela”.29 In March 2010. with the proclaimed aim to promote disarmament. Communication and Information Minister Andrés Izarra laughed at non-governmental crime figures in a CNN interview. which included police and penal justice reform. drug control and prevention strategies and prison reform. as well as structural causes such as poverty that it claims to have inherited from previous regimes and that continue to be fuelled by the national and international bourgeoisie and U. “La violencia es financiada por EEUU”.S. It is common for the government and security forces to announce percentages of crime reduction sporadically. I have no doubt that these crimes and many of these criminal gangs are prepared. 14 July 2009. 34 Yolaidy Martínez Ruiz. 2 June 2010. the government has failed to implement integrated and effective citizen security policies. The citizen security coordination law regulates responsibilities of and interaction among the agencies in charge and establishes the Citizen Security Coordination Council as responsible for developing and coordinating the implementation of relevant policies. CICPC. video. 16 January 2010.. rights and obligations. Also. 364. “Ley de Coordinación de Seguridad Ciudadana”. 7 June 2011. 28 Article 55 of the 1999 Constitution established for the first time that every individual has the right to protection by the state against threats to person. empire and its lackeys”. 27 DIBISE includes the National Police. which. 75 per cent of national-level crime was concentrated. María Isoliett Iglesias. Crisis Group interview. Carlos Crespo. prosecutorial authority (ministerio público) and Supreme Court. the government installed the Presidential Commission for the Control of Arms. Red Latinoamericana de Policías y Sociedad Civil.aporrea. 2009. YouTube. Starting with weak diagnostics. however. “Plan de trabajo de Comisión Presidencial para el Control de Armas será discutido”. El Universal. has not yet produced a concrete plan or action. Brazil. 28 February 2011.28 citizen security measures in practice have so far primarily consisted of reactive. In March 2009. fight micro-trafficking. “crime and violence are a political problem and one of the biggest enemies of the Bolivarian revolution. a body consisting of governmental and non-governmental representatives and tasked with proposing policies for disarmament and the prevention of the use of arms. the National Guard. 32 “Balance del Dibise arroja resultados positivos”. public liberties and guaranteeing social peace” (Article 4). almost 70 per cent of state interventions in citizen security matters between 2003 and 2010 consisted of “operations”. “Milicia reforzará el Dispositivo Bicentenario de Seguridad en Caracas”. the ombudsman blamed the situation on “perception problems”.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. cit.33 The creation of the National Police in 2009 (see Section V. Correo del Orinoco. funded and supported by the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie: the U.youtube. p. El Universal. Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Comunicación y la Información.318.S. the National Council for Prevention and Citizen Security. TalCual. Caracas. Five working groups were established to achieve the goals of the Disarmament Commission.B) and the establishment of a new interinstitutional entity. 33 “Situación de los Derechos Humanos”.

164th out of 178 countries overall. Los Angeles Times. 21 June 2011. have a capacity of 40 but accommodate 300. “Yoifre: “yo sí maté a mucha gente allá dentro”. The prisons are chronically overcrowded.com. “2011 Trafficking in Persons Report”. Africa and the U. Inter-American Dialogue. U. 14 July 2011.41 Located on the north-east shoulder of Latin America. November 2009. informe 2009”. this is not a new problem. According to a criminologist. 476 inmates were murdered and almost 1. 40 “Venezuela’s Political Outlook: A Conversation with Pedro Nikken”. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. in 2008 and 2009. therefore. press release no.A) and overcrowded and dysfunctional prisons.37 The likelihood of dying violently while in the state’s custody is.219km land border with Colombia. such as high levels of impunity (see Section V. It not only had risen by 2008 to fourth place in the world in cocaine seizures (34 of the The current disarmament law (Ley de Desarme) came into effect in 2002. Nikken initially said 60 kilograms. export or transport firearms. known in prisoner slang as prans. 39 “The fifth circle of hell”. including assault rifles and sub-machine guns. as well as business and financial sectors that offer significant opportunities for the laundering of illicitly obtained assets. who charge inmates a monthly fee (la causa) for food. Ultimas Noticias (www. 16 June 2011. Crisis Group interview. Vienna. Caracas. therefore. 42 In 2010.S. Firearms. are the most violent in the hemisphere. 28 February 2011. Venezuela’s score in 1999 was almost as low. It would introduce sentences of twelve to sixteen years for those who illegally commercialise. The Economist. 19 July 2011.ultimasnoticias. 233-235. where three people died in May 2011. have been undermined by flaws in the system. Canal de Noticia. 3. Venezuela’s prisons. 15 July 2011. 14 June 2011. “Hugo Chávez’s criminal paradise”. 38 . it took them nearly a month at Rodeo II. It obliges firearms owners to register them with the armed forces. It has long coastlines and lax law enforcement. the Penal Law for Disarmament and Munitions Control.57/11. 382-383.co). Department of State.35 While the initiative has been welcomed. Moisés Naím. some 24 times the – already very high – rate among the general population. 14 June 2011. and drugs are available to anyone who can afford them.000 injured out of a population which. it is a logical jumping-off point for illicit goods to Europe.D) has been interpreted by some as an indication it is motivated less by a desire to reduce civilian gun usage. where some 1. UN Office on Drugs and Crime. security expert.S. com.. The Primero Justicia party submitted a separate bill in April 2011 that would provide anonymity and benefits for those who voluntarily turn in weapons. 2 June 2011. above all. Failure can lead to a fine and confiscation. reform efforts have not been framed as part of an integrated citizen security strategy that could address the multiple dimensions of crime prevention and law enforcement. phone interview.000. 11 September 2008. a major coca cultivation. Venezuela has become a major transit corridor for drug flows toward the U. extortion and trafficking operations by cell phone from the jails. In 2010. 36 Crisis Group phone interview. and. NGO representative. was officially said to be under 45. the National Guard found 50 kilograms of cocaine and that sophisticated weaponry was widespread among prisoners. 41 “World Drug Report 2010”. According to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory. a place to sleep and protection against murder. Crisis Group interview. but amended this to 50. Transparency International ranked Venezuela the worst in Latin America in public sector corruption. drug production and trafficking hub.ve). It also makes it illegal to carry arms at public events such as rallies. “Corruption Perceptions Index” (CPI).Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. it has never been applied. (www.twittervenezuela. 24 November 2010. as well as extensive. not without some escaping and others dying in the attempt.worldpoliticsreview. according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 10 November 2007. www. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones.S. They also run kidnap. audiofile. While the National Guard regained control rapidly over the Rodeo I. than a wish to improve its standing in the run up to the 2012 elections. elections and demonstrations. pp. 27 June 2011.thedialogue. 35 “Todo sobre PRANES y la vida en una cárcel venezolana”. “Situación Carcelaria en Venezuela. the fact that the government is simultaneously arming civilian militias (see Section V. pp. more than 1 per cent of the prison population. in February 2011. “Criminólogo Gorriño considera difícil que los muertos en CICPC fueron torturados”.40 B. Individual measures. 2010.38 Prison conditions made national and international headlines when 27 inmates reportedly died and over 70 were injured in a shoot-out between gangs at the El Rodeo prison outside Caracas on 12 June 2011.mp3). Europe and West Africa. A second disarmament law.36 All in all. Joseph Kirschke. Caracas.42 According to the UN. 37 “Cidh deplora muertos violentos en cárcel de Venezuela”. passed its first reading on 28 January 2010. and the prisons are in practice run by gang bosses. Above all. Roger Zet Blog (www. difficult to control borders with Brazil and Guyana. “The coke coast: cocaine’s new Venezuelan address”. 17 August 2011 Page 6 informed by the commission’s work. 423 and 366 prison inmates died respectively. INTERNATIONAL ORGANISED CRIME Venezuela’s transformation into a major centre of operations for international organised crime has indirectly and directly fuelled violence. it is plagued by corruption. import.000 inmates resisted and subsisted without water and food and eventually surrendered.39 Once in control. the CICPC custody cells.org/uploads/Audio_Files/VE2. Again. Its vast and relatively under-populated territory possesses a porous 2. According to security experts. p. October 2010.

com/watch?v= EClhGn2coLo&feature=related. Caracas. U. state police chief. when Hugo Chávez became president. Contract killing (sicariato). According to alleged drug kingpin Walid Makled. 25 August 2010. 49 Javier Mayorca. 52 Crisis Group interviews. 234.51 Some specialists believe the overall level of violence associated with organised crime in Venezuela has been limited by a government policy of avoiding across-the-board confrontation. 6-7. 46 Crisis Group interview. but increasingly in the interior) and has also contributed to the overall homicide rate.S. 48 “2011 Trafficking in Persons Report”. 1 March 2011. The report mentions some limited coca cultivation along the Colombian border. women and children who are victims of sex trafficking and/or forced labour. Department of State. op. 26..gumilla. but it also appeared to be the sole source of all the clandestine shipments of cocaine intercepted along the West African route into Europe and Asia. 47 Crisis Group interview. cocaine shipments through Venezuela for Europe and North America increased more than fourfold. Caracas. “Hugo Chávez’s criminal paradise”. complicity and a weak institutional framework. op. YouTube. Centro Gumilla.S. op.S. U.48 Many of these problems pre-date 1999. According to the U.. 11. 22 January 2008. 53 Crisis Group interviews. and Margarita Island . government official. 3 March 2011.45 In 2010. 84. p. 51 Crisis Group interview. September 2010. and “Entrevista exclusiva con Walid Makled”. “Delincuencia organizada y poder político en Venezuela”. . it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. European and North American traffickers and even reportedly the Russian mafia. analyst. government. “Venezuela confisca droga presuntamente propiedad de carteles mexicanos”. bandas criminales) – to Mexican drug cartels. cit. “Manifiesto del Pueblo de Guasdualito: ¡Tenemos derecho a vivir en paz!’”.S. is now such an established feature of the “World Drug Report 2010”. 577).youtube. 5-6.46 Price and exchange controls offer excellent opportunities for smugglers and speculators. pp. Some Venezuelan children are forced to work as street beggars or as domestic servants .43 More than 40 per cent of cocaine shipments seized in Europe (in cases where the origin could be determined) between 2004 and 2010 and more than half (51 per cent) of shipments to Europe intercepted at sea between 2006 and 2008 (67 incidents in all) originated in Venezuela. there are at least two areas in which the impact of international and national organised crime on the pattern and volume of violence is particularly detectable. 6. Venezuela is a transit country for men. but says that “levels are historically insignificant” (p. In a classic example of how the branches of organised crime often interconnect. “2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report”. Caracas. while the ongoing armed conflict in neighbouring Colombia provides a ready market for contraband arms traders. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.54 Moreover. 17 January 2008. Washington DC.49 However. Chinese triads and Japanese yakuza. “Es difícil controlarlos”. Brazilian women and Colombian women are subjected to forced prostitution in Venezuela. and children from neighboring countries … as well as a destination for migrants from China.52 Nonetheless. Venezuela is a source. Counternarcotics Cooperation with Venezuela has Declined”. www. transit and destination country for men.… 43 Organised crime is widely believed to be involved in sex trafficking in Venezuela.S. March 2011. in most if not all cases. Maracaibo.53 Although no serious investigation has been carried out by law enforcement agencies.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. 382. such as Caracas.S. State Department. El Espectador. cit. 22 November 2010.. U. video.… To a lesser extent. Government Accountability Office (GAO). 50 Ibid. See interview with Walid Makled by Casto Ocando. they have become significantly worse under his presidency.. who may be subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in Venezuela”. p. 26 November 2010. despite not being a drug-cultivator or producer itself. 17 August 2011 Page 7 estimated 250 metric tons that transit through it annually).44 Between 2004 and 2007. more than 90 per cent of noncommercial flights trafficking cocaine from Colombia originated in Venezuela. p. women. during which a wide variety of criminal organisations have taken advantage of the opportunities provided by corruption. “Venezuelan women and girls are found in conditions of sex trafficking within the country. former military intelligence officer. Univisión. the drugs trade pays for the weapons. and some victims are even shot in broad daylight in front of witnesses. according to the U. op. Guasdualito. international NGO representative. CNN Mexico. 4 April 2011. 28-29 April 2011. 31 March 2011. p. rather rare before the beginning of the century. the increasing presence of organised crime has translated into a rise in cases of kidnap and extortion (at first mainly in border areas. The south-western border area has been the scene in recent years of a rash of murders in which bodies are typically found dumped in the open. 44 “World Drug Report 2010”. cit. 12 August 2011. 54 Enrique Rivas. July 2009. many observers believe these killings involve settling of accounts between competing armed groups fighting over control of territory and trafficking routes.47 In addition. cit. “five or six flights a day” carry cocaine with government complicity from the southern border state of Apure to international destinations. 45 “Drug Control: U. “‘Había una nominita como de 1 millón de dólares’ para los altos mandos en Venezuela”.50 These groups range from Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries – the latter now officially demobilised but in many cases transformed into what the Colombian government calls criminal gangs (Bacrim. According to the report. pp. pp. lured from poor interior regions to urban and tourist centres.org). 578. Sic Semanal. (www.

more drugs have also entered the domestic market. 577.S. 13 April 2011. agency of being a trafficking organisation. former senior public official. suspects and credit to the government. video. the latter first as the paramilitary umbrella organisation United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia. “Seguridad Binacional: Las Bacrim ya operan en Venezuela: Arco Iris”. are said to be operating in the states of Zulia. Caracas.. 57 Dissident Venezuelan General Néstor González.com/watch?v =rIkaP9X6R-A.youtube. security expert.5 tons. which has been a major contributor to the homicide rates in poor urban neighbourhoods. Long present in neighbouring Colombia. 29 December 2010. Chávez argues that since cancelling cooperation with the U. a criminal organisation that emerged from the ranks of the demobilised paramilitaries. 13 April 2011. 7 April 2001. op.62 Dismissing such claims as part of a destabilisation campaign.S. Organización Nacional Anti-drogas (ONA). intimidating local populations and controlling some of the contraband gasoline. 3 March 2011. Humberto Márquez. El Nuevo Herald. authorities. cit. Caracas. 13 May 2004. who in 2001 was responsible for a section of the western border with Colombia. 20 January 2011. ONA says that while the DEA agreement was in force (2002-2005) none were picked up.55 It is not only the so-called macro trade that has contributed to violence.61 The U. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2005. “Paramilitares (y varios cabos) sueltos”. cit. 67 “Gobierno venezolano ha capturado en 2010 a 17 narcotraficantes solicitados por Interpol”. Interviews by Crisis Group consultant in earlier capacity.5 tons were cocaine.S. 61 Crisis Group interviews.63 his government has seized record amounts of illicit drugs.65 The government attributes lower cocaine seizures to declining production in Colombia and “the use of other routes”.S. YouTube. 28 February 2011. the Venezuelan government has not relaxed its stance and has on occasions accused the U. Fedenaga. the Rastrojos. the Chávez government renounced its agreement with the DEA and ended joint counter-narcotics operations. State Department has “decertified” the government’s counter-drug performance – declaring that it is not meeting its international obligations in this respect – every year since 2005. p. “Paramilitares colombianos asesoran a venezolanos”. many of whom were handed over to Colombian or U. In 2005. Upside Down World. Subsequent figures were four in 2006.. the Bacrim. 1 March 2011. and we have them here”.60 There are allegations of links between the former paramilitaries and the opposition-led state governments of Táchira and Zulia. analyst. p.L. there have been a number of arrests along the western border of individuals said to be members of the Águilas Negras.S. 56 55 “2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report”. ONA.59 Since late 2010. op. confirmed contacts with the AUC.58 Venezuelan military counter-insurgency operations before Chávez were (occasionally) allegedly supported by paramilitaries.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. non-U. “Águilas Negras: Rising from the Ashes of Demobilisation in Colombia”. spreading violence.5 tons in all. terrorism or drug-trafficking on Crisis Group interview. cit.com. op. www. with little or no Venezuelan participation. Período 20002008”. former general.6 tons of cocaine. nor allows the presence of guerrillas. ex-member. Chávez accused the DEA of violating Venezuelan sovereignty and spying on government officials as part of a plan to destabilise the country.64 In 2010. Águilas Negras and a similar group. AUC) and later in the form of new illegal armed groups and paramilitary successors. reported in “Venezuela dice incauta menos cocaína por caída producción y uso otras rutas”.S. reproduced in venezuelanalysis. “Seguridad Binacional”. They tend to be less critical of alleged complicity on the part of the authorities but say that a large part of the seizures that appear in the ONA’s annual statistics result from their own operations. 9 April 2011. Maracaibo. It is considered pragmatic to hand over drugs. 60 C. 64 “Cuadro Comparativo sobre Incautaciones de Drogas Realizadas en la República Bolivariana de Venezuela. NonU. drug seizures totalled more than 77.6 tons).57 In 2001. Caracas. As the flow of drugs in transit has increased. Cablenoticias2. Juan Manuel Santos. “Águilas Negras”. 63 In that year. military intelligence. five in 2007 and fourteen each in 2008 and 2009. 28 September 2010. Inter Press Service. Efe. drug agencies continue to collaborate with the Venezuelan police and National Guard anti-narcotics units. an 11 per cent drop in that drug from 2009 and less than half the amount seized in 2005.67 In August 2010. said in 2004 that he had “always warned that behind the guerrillas would come the paramilitaries. Agencia Venezolana de Noticias. Crisis Group email communication. at a meeting with his newly-elected Colombian counterpart. 66 Statement by ONA President Néstor Reverol. however. the Venezuelan National Anti-Drugs Office (ONA) claimed seizures of more than 63. 65 The rest is mainly marijuana (38. 2005. of which almost 58. 17 August 2011 Page 8 crime scene that some urban gangs specialise in it (though not always on behalf of organised criminals). 59 Crisis Group interview. Caracas. including 24. show a different story. “Revista Balance de la Lucha Antidrogas en Venezuela 2010”. Bogotá. 9 June 2011. Crisis Group interview. 53. the national ranchers’ federation. 62 . criminologist. President Chávez affirmed that “Venezuela neither supports.56 Left-wing Colombian guerrillas (see Section IV.A) and their right-wing paramilitary rivals took part in this criminal infiltration. Its own figures. Táchira and Apure. 2006. the phenomenon arrived in force in Venezuela as the activities of its principal practitioners – the drug traffickers and paramilitaries – grew.66 It also says it captured seventeen leading traffickers in 2010. leading to a significant increase in micro-trafficking. 58 Fabiola Sánchez. police attachés. Smith. Although Washington has sought to negotiate a revised agreement for DEA operations.

“Terrorist-Criminal Pipelines and Criminalized States: Emerging Alliances”. According to a senior Colombian government official.68 In April 2011. which “counts on the integration of the state’s leadership into the criminal enterprise”. November 2006. El Mundo. In the case of rice. the government proved incapable of curbing the flow of illicit goods. “Uribe anuncia medidas para atacar contrabando de arroz venezolano”. smugglers could in some cases double the value of their merchandise. 77 Phil Gunson. op. 79 “Precio de la gasolina en Colombia es el cuarto más alto del continente”. import and internal controls. The trade contributed to the corruption of civil and military officials with responsibilities for the border. and as such. foreign ministry. 28-29 April 2011. Partnership Africa-Canada. 70 Crisis Group interview. 75 . “Capturan a 10 pilotos de ‘El Loco Barrera’ con ayuda de Venezuela”. Agence France-Presse.000 tons were annually being illegally imported. June 2007. the contraband trade continues to flourish.75 The government refused to accept a KP supervisory delegation visit. 28 February 2010. the director of the Colombian National Police. 2 March 2011.81 “Chávez dice que ni permite ni permitirá presencia de guerrilla en Venezuela”. An extensive system of subsidies for basic foods and other essential goods such as gasoline and cement has led to the establishment of a highly lucrative cross-border trade that takes advantage of often huge price differentials. “Relaciones Colombia-Venezuela ‘van por muy buen camino’”. Crisis Group e-mail communication.72 Two examples may indicate the scale of the phenomenon and the lax attitude of the authorities. while on the other side of the border it costs $0. the claims of alleged drug kingpin Walid Makled. “Así será el pacto antidrogas con Venezuela”. El Tiempo. However. 5 November 2010. See also Section IV.78 The same is true of gasoline smuggling. 73 For discussion of a third example. approximately ten million gallons a month are smuggled across that section of the border alone. FBL). 3 December 2009. the governments signed a bilateral agreement aimed at improving cooperation in the fight against drugs. 26 April 2011. 10 August 2011.B. Fedearroz – complained that some 100.80 The large sums of money generated have allegedly gone not only to individuals.69 While Colombia speaks of a sea change in attitude displayed by the authorities in Caracas. Participating states must put the requirements into national legislation. and under pressure of expulsion agreed in 2008 with the organisation’s governing body to voluntarily suspend its membership while putting its house in order. WRadio. January 2010. see Section V. a litre of gasoline sells for $0.77 Despite its claims that not a single kilo of food could be transported across the country without its knowledge. by 2009. 72 A respected journalist and analyst has gone so far as to describe Venezuela as a criminalised state. General Oscar Naranjo. “Águilas Negras”. therefore consists of contraband. Santa Elena de Uairén. its successors and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Liberation Forces (Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación. com. In Venezuela. strengthened judicial cooperation and joint operations.79 According to figures given by a business leader in Táchira state.02 at the official rate. and “franchises out part of its criminal enterprises to non-state actors”. PRISM Journal. 3 April 2011. 74 The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) imposes extensive requirements on members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as “conflict-free” and prevent those that are not from entering the legitimate trade. 68 Venezuela annually produces an estimated 150. 10 August 2010. cit.76 Simply by crossing the border. 9 August 2011. including export. food and transportation. and commit to transparency and data exchange. Portafolio. 69 Jorge Enrique Meléndez and Luis Guillermo Forero. El Universal (Cartagena). announced the capture of ten pilots belonging to the organisation of one of the country’s most wanted drug traffickers and celebrated the cooperation with Venezuelan authorities in the operation.S.74 However.C below. foreign ministry.kimberleyprocess. Guasdualito. 1 June 2011.70 it remains to be seen whether initial and very positive signals translate into effective and sustainable action against the drug-trade and organised crime in general (see also Section IV. See www. especially in the National Guard and the army. Semana. 21 December 2010. but also to organised armed groups.A).) National Defense University. set up to halt the trade in so-called blood diamonds that have financed armed conflict in West Africa in particular. 76 Phone interview by Crisis Group consultant in earlier capacity.000 carats of diamonds but has not officially exported any since 2005. the agreement is confidential. Venezuela has not issued a single “Kimberley certificate” since 2005. about which the government produces no statistics. 78 Ibid. Poder y Negocios magazine (Venezuela edition). a member of the Kimberley Process (KP). 12. On 10 August. Bogotá. 21 December 2010. Colombian growers – grouped in the Federación Nacional de Arrozeros. p.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. including through intelligence sharing. El Nuevo Herald. “Contrabando como arroz”. 80 “Venta legal de Combustible a Colombia no frenará el contrabando”. 71 Crisis Group interview. Douglas Farah.99. including the AUC. 20 April 2011. causing a 35 per cent drop in the farmgate price. (U. 81 Crisis Group interviews. 17 August 2011 Page 9 Venezuelan territory”. and the entirety of its diamond exports. the other the smuggling of basic subsidised goods. One concerns the diamond trade. “Venezuela sufre el alto costo de la gasolina barata”. Fedearroz General Manager Rafael Hernández. Interviews by Crisis Group consultant in earlier capacity. “The Lost World – Diamond Mining and Smuggling in Venezuela”.71 There is broad evidence to suggest that high-level complicity with organised crime has indeed existed.73 Venezuela is a minor producer of industrial-grade diamonds. Bogotá. as well as to the creation of a moneylaundering web.

that none of the attackers have been identified and no independent inquiry held.3 per cent were repressed by the state or other actors in 2010. The government did not talk with them or refer to them in its announcement. political killings have remained at a relatively low level.89 The risk is that.88 political adversaries run the risk of being treated as guilty a priori. and in April. Espacio Público y Provea. was arrested and sentenced to seven years for “inciting delinquency”. 5 May 2011. a favourite slogan is “no volverán!” (they will never return). Asociación Civil. though González has to appear regularly in court as part of the release conditions.. modified by decreto no. Figures compiled by Provea show that. the number of street protests registered annually is rising. each side continues to blame the other for the violence of 2002. and the criminal justice system is employed as an instrument of political control. and “Anuncian alza salarial de hasta 66% para trabajadores públicos”. op. cit. of a total of 3. cit.87 While the vast majority of protests continue to be nonviolent and are not met with repression. or even of political vengeance – a growing trend that human rights monitors have termed the “criminalisation of dissent”. it has not shied from making an example of certain individuals. 90 “Venezuela: una década de protesta 2000-2010”. ccvi. Chávez announced a public sector wage package that put an end to a lengthy hunger strike by nurses. from 1999 to 2010. the political project led by Hugo Chávez. with occasional peaks at moments of great political tension. “Informe Anual 2010-2011”. secretary general of the Orinoco metal miners union. “Rocío San Miguel: Soy objetivo militar de la Fuerza Armada Nacional”. that the only individuals sentenced for a part in the killings are claimed by the opposition as political prisoners.82 Nonetheless. 8166. p. 84 “Situación de los Derechos Humanos”.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. senior generals withdrew support for Chávez. pp. Human Rights Watch. but the interim government collapsed in mutual recrimination. protesters will grow increasingly frustrated and adopt more violent means. or opposition to.83 However. On both sides. Annual reports from the human rights NGO Provea show nearly four times as many demonstrations in 2009/2010 as there were in 1998/1999. 25 April 2011. 96. and he was briefly ousted. “Presentación de Human Rights Watch ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos”.84 The government’s response to protests has combined selective repression with occasional concessions. which could trigger a more repressive response from the authorities. The sentence was quashed three days later. Already. defined largely in terms of support for.000 workers. there are those who question not only the political beliefs of their adversaries but also their patriotism and right to govern. more than nine years later. even after winning a fair election. 341. but specially on the part of the government and its supporters. 6-8. pp. 4. 39666. Provea. Control Ciudadano. labour and education issues. p. The majority of protests were related to housing. El Universal. 85 .8 per cent of protests were non-violent. An example is the case of activist Rocío San Miguel. 16 March 2011.8189. often as a result of the indiscriminate use of weapons such as teargas grenades and pellets fired from shotguns. low-intensity political violence. Human rights organisations and the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights have warned Chávez frequently derides the opposition leadership as “apátridos” (unpatriotic. op. with the aid of the courts. op.114 protests. The next month the government released some political prisoners after a hunger strike by students. when nineteen died and dozens more were wounded during a mass march on the presidential palace organised by the opposition. the fact that. on the basis of allegations published in a military journal. Gaceta Oficial no.86 and using a range of prerogatives that restrict the right to protest. Moreover. POLITICAL VIOLENCE Venezuelan politics is highly polarised. and more particularly. prompted by an array of unresolved social and economic issues and the increasing radicalisation of Chávez’s political project. 86 In February 2011. after he organised a strike of over 2. “Chávez: No volverán al poder ni en elecciones ni por otra vía”. and the president was restored to power in less than two days. 98. see Crisis Group Briefing. restricted demonstrations. 82 Decreto no. for or against the president himself. ccvi. the president vetoed a new educational law following mass student protests. 17 August 2011 Page 10 C. as institutional means of redress for grievances have largely been closed off by executive control over all branches of the state. For a review of social tensions and radical measures taken by the government following the president’s victory in the February 2009 referendum. p. Rubén González. 3866. Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution. especially in April 2002. has. that she and two journalists had been accused of planning to destabilise the president and were therefore a military target.90 More than 2. 83 Following violent repression of the march.. Gaceta Oficial no. El Universal. 89 “Informe Anual 2010-2011”. In absolute terms they are vastly outweighed by those attributable to common crime and police brutality. 21 March 2011. at least 34 people died in street demonstrations at the hands of security forces. The situation is perhaps best described as one of constant. 14 March 2011. 26 April 2011. 96. who claimed in May 2011. for instance. In December 2010. including in central Caracas. cit. 87 The establishment of “security zones” (zonas de seguridad) across the country. El Nacional. 4 May 2011.85 At the same time. 28 February 2011. traitorous). Enero-Diciembre 2010”. political polarisation and social protest have claimed more than a few lives. and that civilian gunmen on the government side were exonerated and raised to hero status is indicative of the deeply troubled environment.500 were injured. 88 “Manifestaciones Públicas. The concession to the nurses was not explicit.

p. termed the “oil sabotage” by the government) of 2002-2003 that crippled the vital industry. “Diez años de polarización en Venezuela”. schoolchildren are recruited as “communications guerrillas” to combat negative media reports. but however much they squeal there’s neither force nor obstacle that will prevent it”. on the one remaining opposition TV channel. Provea. On 13 August 2009. 95 María del Pilar García Guadilla. The president and his leading supporters have frequently claimed that his words are mild in comparison to attacks on him in the opposition media. a great part of the blame for the climate of latent and explicit violence undoubtedly lies with the aggressive and often crude political language employed by the president and some of his leading supporters. pp. where he is seeking asylum. Jan-Mar 2003. 139. Manuel Rosales. there were almost 160 acts of aggression against journalists and media organisations. Venezuelan academic José María Cárdenas claims that the disparaging discourse against the president and his followers reflects the liberation of “hidden sensations of racist nature” on the part of the middle class and the bourgeoisie. The opposition is denigrated as “fascists” or “pitiyanquis” (roughly. twelve journalists who were protesting in central Caracas against aspects of an education bill were beaten – eight severely – by pro-Chávez demonstrators. “Annual Report 2010”. including strikes and business lock-outs. 97 “Presidente Chávez magnicidio. 12 November 2000. “Politización y polarización de la sociedad civil venezolana: las dos caras frente a la democracia”. including the constant use of military terminology and dehumanisation of opponents.A). as a collective and since its 2005 boycott of the legislative elections.S. Individual opponents have been subjected to barrages of insults. 96 . and in the discourse of some radical representatives of the opposition. no. Colegio Nacional de Periodistas. 93 “Contexto 2002”. Following Chávez’s return to power after the 2002 coup attempt. without the need for specific orders. www. pp. who contested the 2006 presidential election.org. the opposition (now united in the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática) seems to have toned down its discourse.cnpven. “Venezuela orders arrest of TV owner critical of Chavez”. as in December 2010 when Carlos Correa of the NGO Public Space (Espacio Público) was beaten outside the parliament. virtually united in opposing the government via the ballot-box. such rhetoric encourages violence against political opponents.98 However. 2 May 2011. negative vision of “the others”. “A dos semanas del brutal ataque a periodistas de la cadena Capriles no hay culpables”. when he lost a constitutional reform referendum in 2007. 31-62.com/watch?v=Yb10t9soPYU). 17 August 2011 Page 11 that government campaigns aimed at denigrating activists and questioning their motives can lead directly to physical attacks by government supporters. along political and class lines.91 In 2010. 567. From 2001 to 2004 in particular.. Venezuelan upper classes have historically been descended from white Europeans in contrast to the largely indigenous or African heritage of the lower classes. BBC. Guillermo Zualoga faces an arrest warrant in Venezuela for alleged business irregularities and has fled to the U. 94 The term escuálido used to denigrate the opposition is in Venezuelan parlance roughly equivalent to “puny”. in a particularly blatant example.). his middle.97 Vigorous opposition to the government can indeed be found in some print media. They squeal and squeal. rather than only on opposition to Chávez himself. Coupled with the climate of impunity that protects aggressors (see Section V. “Chávez: yo preguntaría si está de acuerdo con eliminar la CTV2”. against possible attacks by his followers. in Francesca Ramos et al.youtube. ‘little Yankees’) or belittled by animal imagery (“squealing like a truck-load of pigs”96). 98 Globovisión owners in turn have come under strong pressure by the government. 28 August 2009.92 The opposition has contributed to political polarisation through its initial inability to focus consistently on an alternative political project.flv”. 12. 2010). with each side espousing a stereotypical. “They go crying every day to the media. El Universal. El Nacional. Several aspects of this deserve particular attention. this led to a series of attempts to pressure the president or oust him from power by extra-constitutional means. into chavista and escuálido94 zones. 16-17. The archbishop of Caracas was labelled a “troglodyte”.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.95 Still.and upper-class opponents in many parts of the capital set up self-defence groups and sought specialist advice on how to defend themselves and their homes. They’re like a truck-load of pigs. Hugo Chávez: una década en el poder (Bogotá. including alleged calls for his assassination. 92 “En 2010 se registraron 159 ataques contra periodistas y medios”. 20 November 2010 (www. 91 Elections are described as “battles”. vol. Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. (eds. with firearms if necessary. the failed 11 April 2002 coup and the oil strike (paro petrolero. Espacio Abierto. an “imbecile and a drug-trafficker”.93 The city became increasingly split. he described the opposition victory as “shit”. video. The president has often threatened to reduce foes to “cosmic dust” or “pulverise” them. Globovisión. supporters of the ruling party are organised into “battalions” or “battle units”. YouTube. 1. 12 June 2010. p.

“Los Correos que revelan la relación entre Farc y el gobierno Chávez”. Caracas. “Pablito” and “Gabino” (ELN). 107 According to the above mentioned Colombian intelligence report. No serious effort has been undertaken to combat or disarm the groups. had a politi- A. p. May 2011. cit. El Espectador. while the ELN was mostly based in west Apure and south-east Táchira (See map. VIOLENCE AND POLITICS In addition to the presence of criminal organisations that primarily pursue economic interests. “Grannobles” (FARC) and alias “Antonio García”. Crisis Group interview. op. “Colombia-Venezuela: una intensa década de encuentros y tensiones”. in 1999. With regard to the guerrillas and the FBL. in whatever condition we will take care of him. National Liberation Army) – on Venezuelan territory is not a recent phenomenon. “Farc en Venezuela: un huésped incómodo”. Bogotá. 29 June 2010. guerrillas’ need for shelter increased after 2002 due to stepped-up military pressure from the Uribe government. Although Chávez on several occasions said the Colombian guerrillas should be granted belligerent status. Agence France-Presse. under the terms of the rapprochement with the Colombian government. one that. Improving Security Policy in Colombia. 15 July 2010. 24. Táchira. 103 “FARC tienen 1. Pasión Guerrilla (Caracas. announcing neutrality toward the Colombian conflict and equal treatment of its parties. in Hugo Chávez. 2009). acquire the same. 10 May 2011) that the FARC had high-level contacts with Caracas during the governments of Chávez’s predecessors. Caracas. because he is a combatant in an internal conflict in which we are neutral”. 105 They include alias “Ivan Márquez”. pp. Colombia: President Santos’s Conflict Resolution Opportunity. FARC was largely concentrated in the states of Zulia.106 The groups allegedly use the neighbouring territory to rest and as a safe area for their leaders in which they can train. they moved from being an occasional military target102 to becoming a tolerated. a Colombian intelligence report claimed that some 1. recognises their political utility. 39-54. the Bolivarian Liberation Forces (FBL) and the urban colectivos. 100 Roberto Giusti.100 Nonetheless. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). we will do exactly 99 .103 According to this and other sources. op. Apure and Amazonas. he significantly shifted policy. 3. The attack marked the beginning of “Teatro de Operaciones Conjuntas 1” (joint operational theatre 1). 13 October 2010. although to a lesser extent and characterised by ‘pragmatic interests’”. alias “Iván Márquez”. 151 (map). 18 February 2011. Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung. has Chávez appeared to be taking steps to reduce their presence or at least to render it less visible.. injured or no. who replaced “Raúl Reyes” as coordinator of FARC’s international commission. former Colombian intelligence officer. when Hugo Chávez took power.500 hombres en 28 campamentos en Venezuela”. pp. the lengthy and porous border with Venezuela and the traditionally weak presence of the state on both sides of the immediate border areas. Only very recently. Rafael Caldera and Carlos Andrés Pérez. at times welcomed guest. Although fundamentally different in origins. 23 February 1999.S. see Crisis Group Latin America Report N°34. to a lesser extent. 51. pp. focus.. while keeping them at arm’s length. See also: “Los tentáculos de las Farc en Venezuela”. El Espectador. “Rodrigo Granda”. The attitude toward the insurgents’ presence on Venezuelan soil changed particularly after an ELN attack on a naval base in February 1995 in which eight marines died. 23 November 2010. Appendix A). “Jesús Santrich”. intelligence operations and declarations from demobilised ex-combatants. ARMED GROUPS: COMBINING CRIME. however. and Briefing N°23. this attitude may now be changing. 101 In February 1999 Chávez said. which in part have acted as supporters or enforcers of the “Bolivarian revolution” and have both indirectly and directly fuelled violence in the country. security expert. For a review of Colombian-Venezuelan relations. see Socorro Ramírez. 104 “The FARC Files”. In May 2010.104 Important FARC and ELN commanders105 had established their base in Venezuela. It added: “There is also evidence of cooperation with militaries in the border areas.101 As the For analysis of recent conflict dynamics in Colombia and state of the guerrillas. 2 March 2011. Policy Paper 32. cit. London. 527-563. Programa de Cooperación en Seguridad Regional. The Colombian daily El Tiempo reported (Sergio Gómez Maseri. NGO representative. 102 Pre-Chávez governments tried to mediate a negotiated solution to the Colombian conflict. December 2010. they have all benefited from a government attitude that is at least ambiguous. “If a Colombian soldier falls back. the guerrillas spread their illicit business activities across the country. ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. according to the intelligence report. a predefined area along the border where combined military and police forces are coordinated under a joint command. other armed groups combine criminal activities with a political discourse sympathetic to the Chávez project: the Colombian guerrillas. 106 Crisis Group interviews. “Timochenko”. If a Colombian guerrillero falls back. COLOMBIAN GUERRILLAS99 Given the decades-long conflict in Colombia. The report is based on Colombian and U. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and. Also see “The FARC Files: Venezuela. 17 August 2011 Page 12 IV. “Chávez ofrece asilo a guerrilleros colombianos desarmados”. structures and strength. “Bertulfo Alvarez”. the Venezuelan parliament never officially did this.107 hold hostages.500 FARC combatants were present in 28 camps on the Venezuelan side of the border. centralise communications. it is not surprising that the presence of Colombian guerrillas – FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. See Javier Mayorca. p. Beyond their primary settlement in the border areas. Ecuador and the Secret Archive of Raul Reyes”. 18 May 2010.

cit. Guasdualito.115 They range from symbolic tributes116 and the turning of a blind eye to illicit activities to giving direct material support. with the capacity to train 700. Caracas. In 2006. or at any rate with the silent and allegedly well paid complicity of members of the Venezuelan military. ex-Colombian intelligence officer. FARC-ELN disputes have diminished after their 2010 ceasefire. p. which parts of the armed forces have learned to take advantage of (see Section V. Former Interior Minister and retired naval intelligence Captain Ramón Rodríguez Chacín is said to have operated as the main link between the government and FARC. former senior law enforcement officer. landowners and cattle ranchers and the kidnapping of those who do not pay have been manifestations of guerrilla presence since the 1990s. and even exercising control over community life and families. the government has been accused of displaying a permissive. 111 Roberto Giusti. insurgents have settled into a more “peaceful”. op. 112 . “Los tentáculos de las FARC en Venezuela”. A number of sources confirm the offer and/or provision of arms.C). cit. 134. 15 July 2010.112 Community leaders in Apure complain that guerrillas have gone from using their territory to rest and recuperate to taking over state functions and actively intervening in. Bogotá.. cit.000 Venezuelan peasants to be trained by FARC and ELN in cooperation with the Venezuelan army and Cuban advisers. which derive income from supplying the groups with food and services. 27 July 2011. 115 See “Farc en Venezuela”. Casto Ocando.. Guasdualito.. Monagas. and “The FARC Files”.110 Many drug and arms operations appear to be carried out in active cooperation with... in part supportive attitude towards the groups. a witness protected by Colombian intelligence (DAS) reported centres in Apure. p. Caracas. El Espectador. Crisis Group interviews. “Pobladores de la Sierra de Perijá confirman presencia de guerrilleros”. “The FARC files”. 28 February 2011. FARC leader alias “Jesús Santrich” is said to have run an “instruction centre” in Sorotaima (Zulia). cit. The intelligence report also revealed plans to recruit 3. “Así se mueven”. a minute of silence to commemorate the killing of “Raúl Reyes” in 2008 and the presidential statement the same year that FARC and ELN should be recognised as belligerents in the Colombian conflict. particularly in Apure and Zulia states. journalist. 60. Caracas. foreign law enforcement officer.. 109 Crisis Group interviews. security expert. 116 Tributes include a monument to former FARC leader alias “Manuel Marulanda” in Caracas’s Comuna 13 neighbourhood. with Colombian Bacrim – have put local communities in the line of fire and subjected them to forced displacement and recruitment. 1 August 2010. op. Evidence of ties between the guerrillas and the government abound. 117 “Farc and Venezuela: Un huésped incómodo”. 4-5 March 2011. press reports. pp. particularly prior to 2008. “Guerrilla asesina y desaloja a Venezolanos en la frontera”. and a former senior Venezuelan law enforcement officer stated that without a green light from the guerrillas. cit. September 2010. Although systematic data are not available. forced recruitment and displacement and imposing rules in the communities”.B) and. 17 August 2011 Page 13 arms and equipment and develop their illicit businesses. Venezolanos en Línea. particularly the National Guard and the army (see also Section V.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. Zulia.109 Other foreign law enforcement agents believe these estimates to be exaggerated and point to Bacrim increasing their own cross-border trafficking. 18 February 2011. cit. El Nacional.114 The absence of functioning state institutions on both sides of the border has facilitated guerrilla presence and its impact in Venezuela. Bogotá.C). p. more recently. 5. Caracas. 110 Crisis Group interview. Bogotá. p. 3 March 2011. Furthermore. though still coercive. 18 May 2010. ex-general.111 but they increased markedly after 1999. 18 February 2011. Machiques. Bogotá. Occasional fierce disputes over territorial control between FARC and ELN – and partly also with the Venezuelan FBL (see Section IV. op.117 Members of the army and the National Guard cal and military training center in Machiques (Zulia). Santa Cruz de Aragua and the surroundings of Maracay in which Spanish ETA members and “some Iranian groups” were allegedly trained. El Nuevo Herald. 1 March 2011. cit. who denied the existence of an armed conflict. op. Caracas. According to a document prepared by then-Interior Minister Chacín for the president and signed on 10 August 1999. money. op.113 In some areas. Crisis Group’s own research and other sources show that the increasing presence of the Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela has had a violent impact on the border population in particular. March 2011. cit. 7-10. “Guerrilla Colombiana gobierna pueblo en territorio venezolano”. op.108 Foreign law enforcement agents on the ground suggest that around two thirds of the cocaine passing through Venezuela originates with FARC. 113 “Guerrilla Colombiana gobierna pueblo en territorio venezolano”. 23 November 2011. 20 October 2006. 28-29 April 2011. The latter was at the time mainly considered a jab at Colombian President Uribe. Aragua. 10. Caracas. 114 Crisis Group interviews. Crisis Group interviews. 9 February 2011. “Así se mueven las FARC en Venezuela”. op. 108 “Farc en Venezuela: un huésped incómodo”. p. as well as 59 FARC members. equipment and other services by the government to the insurgents. international law enforcement officers. Extortion of local businesses. Crisis Group interviews. In 2010. relationship with local communities. Crisis Group interviews. op. Maturín. 28-29 April 2011. El Espectador. much of the rest would not cross the border either. 3-4 March 2011. former military intelligence officer. the Jesuit Refugee Service said clashes between the Colombian guerrillas had “put in evidence the violent practices in the border strip … using contract-killing. 3 October 2008. 24.

“Chávez: Las FARC ‘no son terroristas’”. in 2008 he said.noticierodigital. I have never supported. particularly in 2002-2003.. see “Fiscal general: Venezuela no tiene que demostrar al mundo que es inocente”. “I am a man of honour. said FARC had always “had pragmatic dealings with Venezuelan security forces. the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the computer files could not be used as legal proof. 14. housing and health sectors. Semana. I would not hide .121 Among its conclusions was that Chávez had “effectively assigned [FARC] a role in Venezuelan civil society”. cit. “The FARC files”. However. a Bolivarian project. the government would obtain “information as well as the commitment not to carry out operations on Venezuelan territory. 2008). July 2009. particularly during the Uribe administration (20022010). It confirmed this decision on 31 July 2011 following a petition by the public prosecutor to the court to reconsider. Caracas. 118 Crisis Group interviews. p. op. FARC guerrillas took part in providing training “to state security forces. To make it clear: I do not support. Fabiola Sánchez.. the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) published a study on the computer files seized after the Colombian military bombed a FARC camp inside Ecuador. and on foreign soil. “Swedes quiz Venezuela on weapons”. FARC has been a strategic ally for spreading the Bolivarian project across the Americas and containing Colombia. pp. Machiques. “Las amistades peligrosas de Hugo Chávez”. and not to engage into illicit activities”.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. President Chávez said. the Chávez Bolivarian mission’s loss of steam abroad and the August 2010 change in government in Colombia. 163. U. that is respected here”. the Venezuelan government agreed to provide FARC “special medicine. Infolatam. former general. 22 November 2010. 119 Crisis Group interviews. 13. 121 “The FARC Files”. Roberto Giusti. alias “Raúl Reyes”.118 Foreign policy considerations. Univision. the groups have been an indirect driver of it in Venezuela by fuelling illicit economies as well as corruption in the security forces and training domestic armed groups. p. 01 August 2011. this is not a new phenomenon. p.119 Evidence also indicates that the relationship between the guerrillas and the Venezuelan government. they are true armies … that occupy space in Colombia”. “Farc en Venezuela”. “‘Los PC de ‘Reyes’ no son prueba’: Corte Suprema de Justicia”. 10 May 2011. May 2008. That same year he called upon FARC to free all hostages. BBC.S. Serranía del Perijá. El Espectador. the Chávez government may have felt the benefits of an unacknowledged alliance with the Colombian guerrillas outweighed the disadvantages. to the government’s paramilitary support base and to other autonomous but pro-government groups”. security expert. and while violence as a direct effect of guerrilla presence has remained mostly limited to the border areas. “Venezuela responderá en ‘momento oportuno’ a Suecia”. 122 “The FARC Files”. Treasury. In exchange. Guasdualito 28-29 April 2011. the cost-benefit ratio has changed with the gradual decline of the insurgents under military pressure from Bogotá. 28 February 2011. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Interpol says there is no evidence the material was modified by Colombian security forces. Las FARC en México: De la política al narcotráfico (Mexico. Chávez continued that his government recognises them “as an insurgent force that has a political project. 12 January 2008. It will also facilitate support for the asylum and transit of the guerrilla”. not to train Venezuelan militants without governmental consent. “FARC and ELN are no terrorist bodies. According to analysts. op. 23 July 2010.120 In May 2011. cit. 120 In 2004. The authenticity of the Reyes files remains controversial. op. The Venezuelan government expressed doubts regarding the Reyes files. In July it. If I supported FARC. Noticiero Digital (www.. special support services. agriculture. “Interpol reaffirms key findings of its examination of seized FARC computers in response to efforts to distort conclusions”. not the investigative police. 132. which had little option but to accommodate themselves to the arrival of violent and potentially disruptive groups they lacked the capacity to expel by force”. ibid. Caracas. as they had been seized by the military. perceived as the main obstacle to that expansion. Messages retrieved from Reyes’s computers in 2008 revealed Chávez’s approval to transfer $300 million to FARC – which did not materialise – and his instruction to build rest and medical centres. In his remarks on “The FARC Files”. have certainly been a major driver behind President Chávez´s relations with FARC. “Treasury Targets Venezuelan Government Officials Supporting the FARC”. La Nación. Chávez called a report by Interpol “ridiculous” and a “clown show” (“Chávez se burló del informe de Interpol”. has been marked by ups and downs and opportunism on both sides. whose main counter-argument has been that Colombia was not securing its borders properly. cit. 12.. op. communication and information ministry. 17 August 2011 Page 14 allegedly have not only abstained from confronting FARC on Venezuelan soil but have protected its camps and facilitated the group’s operations. p. Again. director for transnational threats and political risks. as well as for rural development in the border region. op. and I will never support the Colombian guerrilla nor a subversive movement against any democratic government”. See its media release. “Las patrañas de la Supercomputadora”. Until recently. p. Another piece of evidence that made headlines was the confiscation by Colombian troops of anti-tank weapons from FARC in 2009 that Sweden had sold to the Venezuelan government. which it called “the millennium farce”. as well as a mutual distrust that has been manifest through an at times contradictory presidential discourse on the guerrillas. 15 May 2008).. In May 2011. Bogotá. oil. cit. journalist 25 November 2011. On Chávez’s defence against accusations. 26 July 2010. killing one of the group’s top leaders. press release. 13 June 2008. for the registration and contracting of firms in the banking. Jorge Fernández Menéndez. op. be sure that I would say so. cit. Nigel Inkster. 91. Chávez said they had been stolen them in an ELN attack on a naval base in Cararabo but did not explain how they reached the FARC. cit.com). 27 July 2009. September 2008.122 In that sense. According to the IISS. 161. particularly towards Colombia but also beyond. 4-5 March 2011.

given the pervasive nature of military corruption and how entrenched. Maracaibo. 129 Crisis Group interviews. senior member of the Colombian army. Chávez has publicly declared he will not tolerate a guerrilla presence in Venezuela and has captured and extradited seven of its members. FARC camps on Venezuelan territory) is still there”. not the U. Semana (online). Control Ciudadano. including security. 11 August 2010. On 1 August 2011. 19 April 2011.131 In contrast with the northern border states. former military intelligence officer. Santos announced that the guerrilla camps identified by the Uribe government were no longer there. Admiral Edgar Cely. when his government requested a meeting of the OAS permanent council in order to present what it said was evidence of FARC camps inside Venezuela and called for a commission to be set up to verify this. Colombia has little interest in publicising what it may know about Some believe that the Santos government’s main leverage has been Walid Makled. who allegedly has links to FARC. 1 June 2011. former military intelligence officer.127 On 14 April.S. 126 Crisis Group interviews. including Joaquín Pérez. El Tiempo. Crisis Group interview. 124 Patrick Markey. Uribe-Chávez relations were marked by personal animosity. President Chávez supposedly needed to ensure he would be extradited to Venezuela. 21 December 2010. phone conversation. said that “what had been demonstrated at the end of ex-President Uribe’s government (ie. . Consequently. 2 May 2011. rich and well-armed the guerrillas still are. was captured on 31 123 May 2011. 15 April 2011.130 This is not so. former military intelligence officer. Bogotá. Bogotá. There are legitimate doubts whether the president could. Bogotá. 131 Crisis Group interviews. “Santos dice que hay ‘enemigos’ del reestablecimiento de relaciones con Venezuela”. 127 Pérez was caught at the Caracas international airport leaving a plane coming from Frankfurt following a phone call from President Santos on 22 April in which he alerted President Chávez and asked him to capture the alleged FARC leader.125 the Colombian government wants to build confidence and commitments. 2 August 2011. March 2011. a leading FARC member and alleged one-time right-hand man of alias “Raúl Reyes”. clarifying that the fact that the camps had disappeared did not mean that there was no longer a FARC presence in Venezuela. “FARC en Venezuela.129 Community representatives from the northern border states are not witnessing substantial changes in FARC and ELN presence and operations. alias ‘el cantante de las FARC’”. the reality behind the rhetoric is complex. 9 February 2008.124 Under instructions from the top for “zero disqualification of Chávez”. Semana. this gesture marks the end of the president’s neutrality policy. He also accused some of his allies of providing support to the guerrillas. Guillermo Torres (alias “El Cantante”). Semana. international analyst. wanted in Colombia and the U. to which the president responded a few days later. but they report that the support provided by the security forces is less open and visible. “Revelan detalles de ‘compadreo’ de la GN venezolana y las FARC en la frontera”. “Capturado el guerrillero ‘Julián Conrado’. 7 July 2011. along the southern border. 15 April 2011. Caracas.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. Evidence from the ground suggests that. the presidents met twice in the first year and are gradually rebuilding cooperation in multiple areas. the head of the Colombian armed forces. and Guillermo Torres. and Chávez was keeping his word. 3 March 2011. Cúcuta.126 The strategy seems to be yielding results. There is evidence of a considerable FARC presence in the southern Venezuelan state of Amazonas. exert control over the guerrillas. Caracas dismissed the evidence and broke off diplomatic relations. there is a policy of lowering their profile and taking exemplary action when necessary and convenient. FARC camps in the south can operate more or less in secret. 18 February 2011. alleged Venezuelan drug kingpin captured in August 2010 on Colombian soil. the guerrillas may simply have moved camps and be organising in smaller units. pragmatic approach to which Caracas has reacted positively.. Reuters. 27 April 2011. outgoing Colombian President Uribe had initiated a new diplomatic challenge. 18 April 2011. “Las Farc y el ELN siguen en Venezuela: Almirante Cely”. Venezuela’s Chavez restore ties”. where insurgents maintain drug trafficking networks and smuggle weapons into Colombia.128 While Chávez surely has much to win or lose in his relationship with Bogotá. Caracol. President Santos swiftly responded that “on both sides there are many enemies of the prosperity of this relationship …”. Bilateral trade was around $7 billion before political tensions led to the suspension of those ties in 2008. however. “Chávez acusa a aliados suyos de apoyar a la guerrilla colombiana”. if he wanted to. 128 The statement generated controversy in Colombia. ¿desaparecieron o cambiaron de lugar?”. Machiques. He was the first alleged FARC member to be caught by Venezuelan authorities since the re-building of diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Colombia in August 2010. but President Santos has taken a constructive.S. Univisión. “Fin de la neutralidad”. Chávez dismissed protests by radical left-wing groups in his country that the government was “making concessions to North American imperialism and the Colombian oligarchy”. rather than actively combating them. and as long as the bilateral honeymoon lasts. 17 August 2011 Page 15 2010. as access to the area is restricted by the National Guard. Colombian foreign ministry officials. former military intelligence officer. 1 August 2011. “Colombia’s Santos. 125 Crisis Group interview. Bogotá. 130 Crisis Group interviews. noticias24. According to prominent Venezuelan security analyst Rocío San Miguel. “‘Es probable que la guerrilla siga en Venezuela’: Presidente Santos”. It avoids challenging its neighbour on difficult topics and celebrates the “positive signals” it receives. 3-4 March 2011.123 Driven largely by economic interests. 28 April 2011. 15 March 2011. the head of the Anncol news agency.

138 Crisis Group interviews. nor the local governments. Roberto Giusti. El Universal. to help finance the FBL). Aló Presidente no. Elorza.138 By 2002. arresting and sometimes killing individuals accused of criminal activities or those it disapproves of. 13 March 2006.136 Like some of the urban colectivos. 134 Javier Pereira. weapons and infrastructure and turning a blind eye to its extortion. 143 Crisis Group interviews. nobody here can be recognising those who pretend to be called Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación”. “FBL se transforma y divide”. “Fuerza Bolivariana de Liberación incrementa presencia en la frontera”. Crisis Group interviews. 145 Interviews by Crisis Group consultant in former capacity. Asogata. whether the two neighbours manage to turn their public displays of harmony into effective cooperation and joint action to help bring about the demise of the guerrillas and organised crime structures that operate across the borders.C). BOLIVARIAN LIBERATION FORCES The FBL is a paramilitary organisation allegedly armed and financed by the government to consolidate its hold over a vital sector of the border with Colombia.133 Its activities are largely confined to the states of Apure and Barinas. 5 July 2009. 16 September 2007. Reporte Confidencial. Bogotá. 28-29 April 2011. generally calling on it to lay down its arms and – if it wanted to defend the government – join the militias. President Chávez said. 12 May 2011. allegedly. 3 October 2004. This appears to have been the result of an internal split. he said. although other sources said at the time only a few hundred were armed and trained. Lina Ron.info. El Univeral. a political activist employed by the energy ministry to control the gasoline trade in Guasdualito (and hence. in particular the villages of Chorrosquero and La Gabarra. 139 Eleonora Delgado.145 Its activities have in the past led to Crisis Group interview. 142 Aló Presidente no. 2006. donde una guerrilla se arma para defender al gobierno y la constitución”. acted on behalf of the ELN. 136 Crisis Group interviews. 27 October 2009. the official version changed.142 All military organisations had to be under the control of the armed forces. www. the cattle ranchers’ association of Táchira state.140 The FBL’s very existence was long denied by official sources. runs a contraband gasoline trade across the border into Colombia. this is a lie! Neither the armed forces. in 1999. Former Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín.134 In a 2005 interview. Locals say it patrols Guasdualito at night and does “social cleansing”. Guasdualito. But according to sources in the border area. former military intelligence officer. www.000. as well as Jorge Nieves. the group has occasionally been very critical of alleged corruption and ‘unrevolutionary’ attitudes on the part of some members of the government. “I will repeat it again: those who call themselves Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación. Junin. pp. 21 May 2002. 16 January 2008. salvemos la patria Bolivariana”. claimed the FBL had more than 2.aporrea. “Rodríguez Chacín es el Jefe del FBL”. though it was not disarming. 28-29 April 2011. a number of informed sources indicate that in its present form it dates from the beginning of the Chávez government. 2008. Guasdualito. Diario de los Andes. Apure. Guasdualito. March 2011.org/ ddhh/a118913. told El Nacional and other media that she was authorised to speak for the FBL. Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. FBL comuniqué. “Las FBL penetran el llano”. 5 March 2011. “Guerra fratricida”. Guasdualito. See also “Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 -Venezuela”. not to combat. Guasdualito. 19 July 2005. 2009. 10 June 2007. although it also has a presence in Mérida and Portuguesa and links with armed pro-Chávez colectivo groups in Caracas. 133 Although often referred to as a “guerrilla” group. kidnapping and smuggling.000 members.137 In June 2009. But it also extorts money from farmers and business people. 132 “Aseguran que 4 mil hombres de la FBL operan en el Alto Apure”. even though it backed the Chávez regime. fishing and logging. 28-29 April 2011.144 It imposes its own law regarding consumption of alcohol and other activities such as hunting. 15 April 2011. 135 “Venezuela.143 The FBL’s main centre of operations has always been in and around the town of Guasdualito in Apure. Prensa de Frente. “FARC computers shine spotlight on Chavez militias”. in that it possesses military power and seeks to support. 2000.132 It remains to be seen. El Nacional (Siete Días section). according to the ranchers. El Nacional. FBL leader alias “Gerónimo Paz” said the group was founded in 1986 and retained its independence. in other words. allegedly the president’s principal intermediary with the Colombian guerrillas. 12 August 2003. and. El Universal.135 However. nor the state government.html. 28-29 April 2011. 366-367. 141 In 2007. leader of one of the colectivos (see Section IV. President Chávez himself referred to the group in his speeches. Insight. along with south-east Táchira. Nieves was murdered in April 2003 by a gunman who.139 By 2005 there were reports that its membership had risen to 4. the FBL later said. local ranchers associations. Tachira. the government was supplying the FBL with money. 17 August 2011 Page 16 these camps. the established regime. and that it received training from Colombian guerrillas. the FBL is more accurately described as “paramilitary”. 140 . 137 “Basta de demagogia y corrupción. has been said by some to have been among the founders of the FBL. B. “Informe del Diputado Ismael García sobre dimensión y profundidad de la corrupción del régimen del teniente-coronel Hugo Chávez y su entorno militar de gobierno”. 285. alias “Gerónimo Paz” said in a communiqué that the group had been dissolved. 206. 28-29 April 2011. 144 Crisis Group interviews. Zulia. Caracas.141 But as its criminal and political activities became steadily harder to conceal. Hannah Stone.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. and government sympathisers attributed press reports on the subject to a campaign of black propaganda against the revolution. reporteconfidencial. steals cattle and kidnaps ransom.

local people report a change in the relationship between the group and the security forces. “El eje revolucionario Chávez-Castro”. 260. though there have been claims that up to 2. While all profess loyalty to the president and that they would defend him by force against his opponents. Although the Venezuelan communist party (PCV) had helped oust the dictator.147 Border sources say that.146 It denies kidnapping. 150 Ibid.154 are scathing In a 7 March 2002 communiqué.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.151 Some members have been close allies of the president from before his February 1992 attempt to overthrow the elected government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. of which perhaps eight have their headquarters in the 23 de Enero.149 In recent months. which they criticise for an alleged lack of true revolutionary spirit. El Mundo. while their activities include vigilantism and “social cleansing”. where the Tupamaros in particular have often been involved in violent street clashes. Tupamaros and La Piedrita. a town of some 60. THE URBAN COLECTIVOS The government’s ambivalence to violence is nowhere more apparent than in its relations with the “colectivos” of the 23 de Enero slum district. and from as early as 1960 there were Cubanbacked guerrilla cells in the country. While there is no indication the government has decided to dismantle the FBL. 17 August 2011 Page 17 clashes with FARC and ELN. 26 February 2007. initiated by President Rafael Caldera (1969-1974). 28-29 April 2011. El Universal.150 Soldiers have been seen riding motorcycles formerly belonging to the FBL.152 Roughly a dozen armed chavista groups of this kind are thought to exist in Caracas. which stretches west toward the Táchira border. 148 Crisis Group interviews. See “FBL exige a las FARC y al ELN abandonar Venezuela”. Since the FBL is the predominant armed group in the area. Bloque Occidental of the FBL proclaimed: “We are a popular reserve to accompany the armed forces in the defence of the fatherland threatened by powerful international enemies”. In the 1960s and 1970s the guerrilla organisations that fought the government used the area as a key urban base. the evidence available is consistent with a policy of lowering the profile of irregular forces in the border area. C. Since late 2010. there has reportedly been an attempt to bring the FBL under control and render its activities less visible. It is rare for more than 40 or 50 armed and hooded gunmen to appear at any one time. The FBL says such conflicts result from its defence of national sovereignty against foreign forces. many are highly critical of the government and have an adversarial relationship with the government party. The most obvious difference is that it is soldiers who now guard filling stations previously controlled by armed men in civilian clothes under the guise of “social auditors”. See Alberto Garrido. have engaged in a shooting war. 153 “20 Pelotones Armados en el 23 de Enero”. it was later excluded from power and took up armed struggle. 152 This is the case. 2010). They describe themselves as socialist. following the Chávez-Santos rapprochement. although they continue to patrol it at night. such as the Coordinadora Simón Bolívar. such visits have been generally attributed to it. cit.000. It also noted that businesses in the region were “hit by foreign groups and others coming from common crime”. 147 Communiqué. though there were still some active units of the far-left Bandera Roja group as late as the 1980s. Copy of communiqué in Crisis Group possession. extortion and other crimes. whose members are no longer a daytime presence in the streets of Guasdualito. while the latter may have been true at the beginning of the Chávez era. fear inspired by the FBL is such that common crime is rare. El Universal. Guasdualito. and growing oil prosperity brought the demobilisation of most guerrilla fronts in the early 1970s. but a recently appointed colonel in charge of the army base at La Victoria visited Chorrosquero and ordered his troops to destroy the group’s gasoline dump there. 149 Ibid. El Palestino (Madrid. the Comandancia General. of Alberto “El Chino” Carías of Tupamaros. op.000 members of the colectivos are armed. who was deputy director of public safety under Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Juan Barreto. The groups defy simple definition. 154 The Coordinadora Simón Bolívar takes pride in pointing to the abandoned Metropolitan Police (PM) offices opposite its 151 . anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist. In 2007. close to the presidential palace of Miraflores in the west of Caracas. it began to finance itself this way after government funding began to dry up.153 Some groups have branches in other parts of Venezuela. The same policy of controlling the community at gunpoint is applied to politics: those critical of the government or denouncing irregularities in the military are likely to receive a visit from gunmen who see their job as defending the revolution and keeping the Chávez regime in power. saying they were “doing the revolutionary process no favours”. The cross-border trade in cheap gasoline was reportedly a mainstay of FBL finances. 146 The restoration of democracy in Venezuela after the 1958 overthrow of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez coincided with the revolution in Cuba. for example. p. as did other left-wing groups. 27 June 2004. even when the perpetrators do not identify themselves. notably the university campus in Mérida.148 The presence of illegal armed groups transformed the situation in Guasdualito and in general in Alto Apure. it demanded that FARC and the ELN leave Venezuela. and the colectivos – armed civilian groups loyal to the Chávez regime – trace their origins to that period. See Antonio Salas. They are not united. while some older groups that regard themselves as serious community organisations. FBL (Bloque Occidental). In Guasdualito. for example. A peace process. although most are of more recent formation. The cost of breaking the “law” imposed by this vigilante group can be death or forced labour on farms it runs on the outskirts of the town. 13 July 2006.

there were allegedly some 7. chairman of the opposition TV channel RCTV (later closed by the government). “Juancho” Montoya. and they were transferred to an open prison. They were sentenced to seven or eight years in 2007. Ron had already declared the media a “revolutionary objective” that was “asking to be bombed”. Barreto is not the only senior chavista to have ties to the colectivos. which now house a radio station and other facilities run by the Coordinadora. 157 Crisis Group interview. 23 June 2006. 158 Ron’s statements were carried on TV. A warrant was issued for Santana’s arrest. death threats or other serious crimes. video. 12 August 2010. with whom he often 161 . In August 2009.156 They have declared several parts of the 23 de Enero no-go areas for the police. Globovisión es un objetivo de la revolución Parte 2”. but the convictions were immediately reduced by seventeen months in recognition of work and studies said to have been carried out while in police custody. even if carrying an arrest warrant. Ron’s close ally. but he has not been captured. But he was released after two months. amid allegations that he had been framed by his superiors. acknowledged a close political relationship to Lina Ron. “Caracas gunmen vanish from city payroll”. some colectivos have combined political activities with drug trafficking. 2005. when Barreto was replaced by an opposition mayor. criminologist. 159 Ibid. Caracas. See “Lina Ron. ejecting church employees. Caracas Hilton. One of Barreto’s first acts was to appoint Tupamaros leader Alberto “El Chino” Carías as deputy director of public safety and to incorporate many Tupamaros members into the Metropolitan Police. such as the Carapaicas. some operating as plainclothes police. December 2008. El Universal. Apex.166 headquarters in the La Cañada sector of 23 de Enero. Their leaders say they forced the PM to leave because they were in league with the criminals who preyed on barrio residents. he declared Marcel Granier.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.com/watch?v=X0NRSIK_GXw. a close Chávez associate.youtube. a group led by Lina Ron. car theft and other forms of organised crime. Former Vice President Diosdado Cabello. 13 June 2010. who are prone to meeting the press in combat gear. the man died trying to bomb Fedecámaras. offices of the foreign press association. El Nacional. Earlier in 2009. www. turned out to be a member of the Metropolitan Police (PM). Some press reports suggested he spent time in Cuba before returning to his base in the 23 de Enero. YouTube. On 27 February 2008. among other things. currently a member of parliament and long considered the number two in the chavista hierarchy. 27 February 2008. wearing ski-masks and carrying automatic rifles.161 Hector Serrano. even when the accusations have included homicide. Barreto was subsequently charged by the public prosecutor with corruption. El Universal. Juan Contreras. The church and Fedecámaras – the leading employers’ organisation – Ron said. “La conexión Carapaica”. Antonio Ledezma. Ledezma has yet to recover his offices. 163 Oscar Medina. had given an interview to two Venezuelan journalists in which. 165 “Revelan que Chávez reclutó a los Tupamaros para golpe del 92”. intelligence agents or bodyguards for government politicians. 17 August 2011 Page 18 about the more recent rivals. 164 Other examples are the three Tupamaros activists who fired on opposition demonstrators in a public square on 16 August 2004.160 Asked about possible innocent victims of armed actions. 13 April 2011. a military target. Meeting between Lina Ron’s Unión Popular Venezuela party and the foreign press. The authorities never admitted or distanced themselves from the hiring of civilian gunmen and used the subsequent dismissal of the activists by Ledezma as a pretext for occupying city hall in 2008. but he has not been tried and no longer has an official position. the investigative police (CICPC) arrested an alleged accomplice of Serrano.164 The influence of the colectivos reached its apparent high point during the 2004-2008 term of Caracas metropolitan Mayor Juan Barreto. and Héctor Serrano – who had died days earlier while trying to place a bomb outside the Fedecámaras building – was a martyr. 160 “Tropezarse con la misma Piedrita”.162 Two years later. 162 The Metropolitan Police are responsible for the metropolitan area of Caracas. Interview by Crisis Group consultant in former capacity. were involved in a conspiracy against the government. 16 October 2005. a policeman in the Libertador municipality run by allies of the president. Valentín Santana of the La Piedrita group. Miami Herald. op. leader of the Coordinadora Simón Bolívar. a Ron lieutenant said they were “collateral damage”. who must seek permission from the group leaders in order to enter. In statements to the press following the attack on the archbishop’s palace.155 Observers say that despite their anti-crime and anti-drugs stance. 155 “Cadena de homicidios dejó tres muertos en el 23 de Enero”. killing 62-year-old Maritza Ron and wounding eight others.159 She was subsequently arrested and held at military intelligence (DGIM) headquarters but was released pending trial. took over the archbishop’s palace in central Caracas for two hours. in his headquarters in 23 de Enero.165 By 2008. 6 December 2004. pro-Chávez groups. once with an incendiary device that started a fire outside its studios. an armed group led by Lina Ron invaded its premises and hurled teargas grenades. cit. 26 December 2008.158 The 24-hours news channel Globovisión has several times been attacked. 166 Press conference by aides to Antonio Ledezma. the most prominent figure in the colectivos’ ranks until her death of a heart attack in 2011. supported by uniformed police and civilian gunmen.163 This pattern of impunity became familiar in cases involving members of the colectivos or other violent. 156 “20 Pelotones Armados”.157 The groups have been involved in a number of armed attacks on institutions linked to the opposition.000 pro-Chávez activists on the city payroll. TalCual.

170 Crisis Group interview. saying they had been “demonised”. cit. together with the legal system and other branches of government. Caracas. who calls himself Comandante Murachi. long-time associate of Juan Barreto and member of his inner circle. public prosecutor’s office (Fiscalía) and the comptroller general (Contraloría General). According to information in computer files seized from the camp of senior FARC leader alias “Raúl Reyes”.worldjusticeproject. this analysis translated into a process during which the president has consistently sought to centralise all power and decision-making in his own hands and those loyal to him. CNE) and the Poder Ciudadano (Citizen’s Branch. Added were the electoral authority (Consejo Nacional Electoral. Bernal has been accused of distributing weapons to the groups. 7 February 2010. In consequence. comprising the ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo). 17 August 2011 Page 19 Although the official government line is that only the state security forces can legitimately bear arms in defence of the state. In the “Rule of Law Index” published on 13 June 2011 by the World Justice Project. “Consecuencias institucionales de la presidencia de Hugo Chávez”. impunity and inefficiency have been the obvious results.168 The latter have been used in attacks on the opposition. Freddy Bernal. criminologist. is said to be a Libertador policeman. also a leading member of the government party. was that in all areas of national life the elites had become corrupted and with them the institutions they headed. Carlos Melo in TV documentary “Los Guardianes de Chávez”. from the traditional three. Ramón Guillermo Aveledo. and Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution. The president has also organised and armed citizens for internal defence. in Hugo Chávez. prefect of the 23 de Enero parish and a former Tupamaro. Venezuela is the worst performer of all 66 countries included in accountability and effective checks on executive power. www. While there was certainly much to be said about corruption and institutional decline under previous administrations. Caracas. thereby leaving the formulation of norms and public policies to a small group of like-minded individuals around him. Those familiar with their leadership say they would resist any such move. 2009. The argument. “Bernal niega existencia de bandas en el 23”. For much of the Chávez presidency (in particular following the opposition’s boycott of the 2005 legislative elections) the parliament has operated virtually as a rubber stamp. see Crisis Group Latin America Reports N°19.173 Corruption. 21 April 2006. Hugo Chávez’s Revolution. 47–68. cit. restructuring or renaming of all national institutions. 169 “Las FARC mantienen contacto con grupos armados Bolivarianos de Venezuela desde 2002”. Canal 4 de España and CNN Plus. However. 168 “20 Pelotones Armados”. In addition. The effects of this institutional decline have been particularly manifest in the justice system and the security forces. El Tiempo. even if it came from the president. 13 April 2011. 10 July 2006. September 2008. cit. former member of military intelligence (DGIM).org/ rule-of-law-index. as in 2001-2004. the bureaucracy. the president has on four occasions sought and received authority to issue decree-laws on broadly-defined areas.170 V. 173 “A Decade under Chávez”.167 Their weapons reportedly include not only automatic rifles (including AK-47s) but also submachine guns. the guerrillas were in contact with some of the colectivos from 2002 onwards (particularly the Carapaicas and Tupamaros) and even gave them military training. the National Electoral Council (CNE) and the members of the “citizens branch”. 172 The 1999 constitution increased the branches of government to five. to the replacement. pp. Interviews by Crisis Group consultant in former capacity. Human Rights Watch. from the outset. Lisandro Pérez alias “Mao”. lost the substantial autonomy required to maintain an adequate system of checks and balances. fragmentation grenades and teargas canisters. no attempt has been made to disarm the colectivos. has defended the colectivos. shared by a majority of Venezuelans when the president came to power in 1999. INSTITUTIONAL DECAY A main characteristic of the Chávez regime has been its commitment. op. El Universal. or Moral Branch).Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. 171 . and they worked with the authorities to control crime. op. op.172 with the result that none of them has in recent years challenged the government on any matter of substance.171 Control of parliament has also enabled the executive to monopolise appointments to the other key organs of state: the Supreme Court. 167 Interview by Crisis Group consultant in former capacity. 2007. 22 February 2007.169 In recent years the groups’ armed actions outside the 23 de Enero have been less visible. The leader of the Carapaicas. if the political situation were to deteriorate. at least some of the extremist elements there might fulfil their promises to target anti-Chávez groups. thereby cre- appeared in public. The former pro-Chávez mayor of the Caracas municipality Libertador. For a review of institutional developments since 2005. June 2010. not least crime and public security.

April 2008. March 2010. 182 See “Informe Anual de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos 2010. press releases. 1 March 2011.corr1. 10. the organisation says. 184 “El ministro de Interior afirma que hasta un 20% de los crímenes violentos los comete la policía”. 183 “TSJ eliminó Corte Primera de lo Contencioso Administrativo”.181 Judge María Lourdes Afiuni was arrested on 10 December 2009 after Chávez publicly called her a “bandit” and said she should be jailed for 30 years. and the court remains closed. Accused of “corruption”. B. Caso Familia Barrios vs. 1 March 2011.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. who had been detained without trial for almost three years. with one handling as many as 4.180 Yet.182 In another case. InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights. neighbours protest when criminals are arrested. December 2009. 176 “Campesinos Asesinados en Venezuela desde el 2001. Frente Nacional Campesino Ezequiel Zamora. state police chief. 174 . which has also said the state has never seriously investigated the case. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers”. OVV. corrupt and ill-prepared system is only part of the problem. The case is with the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. complained in 2009 that the public prosecutor’s office seemed to have no interest in investigating over 200 murders of peasant activists since 2000.178 This compares. then return to their communities and punish those who did not protect them. with 58 arrests per 100 homicides in 1998. but in disregard of an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling. though prosecutors could not show she had benefited from her ruling. were later reinstated. updated on 26 October 2010. Human Rights Watch. because they expect they will be easily released. 180 Crisis Group interview. Asked the reasons for the increase in impunity. Congreso de la República. “Venezuela: Stop Attacks on Judicial Independence”. Crisis Group interview.. 66.174 Organisations loyal to the government. in violation of Venezuelan law. “Sí se puede ganar”. A/HRC/14/26.com/cidh.175 The proChávez Frente Nacional Campesino Ezequiel Zamora. according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV). 91 per cent of murder investigations did not lead to the arrest of a suspect. despite calls by three UN rapporteurs for her unconditional release. Noticiero Digital.5.177 In 2009. A. cit. admitted that the police were involved in 15 to 20 per cent of crimes. 23 October 2003. a national peasant organisation. the government dismissed five judges and closed a court that had issued rulings it regarded as hostile.183 Two. 6 December 2009. IMPUNITY Although the sharp rise in violent crime in recent years has many causes. allegedly by state police. In December 2009. for example. on separate occasions between 1998 and 2011.php. The courts are also subject to political pressures that are hard to resist because more than half the judges lack tenure and can be dismissed at a moment’s notice. seen as pro-government. Her offence was to sign a release warrant for banker Eligio Cedeño. she remains under arrest.000 cases.juancarlosapitz. www. Venezuela”.Doc. seven of whose members were murdered. It was the family’s pursuit of justice that is seen to have led to many of them being killed or harassed. Juan Carlos Apitz. p. p. Impunidad se Mantiene y Resiste”. THE POLICE Another important factor that has driven citizen security problems is the dysfunctional and abusive police. OEA/SER. p. “Resolución del Presidente de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. informe21. Tarek El Assaimi. 175 “Chávez: declaraciones de Presidenta del TSJ fueron ‘muy buenas’”. Venpres. 177 “La Comisión Interamericana condena atentado contra otro miembro de la familia Barrios en Venezuela” and “CIDH deplora asesinato de séptimo miembro de la familia Barrios en Venezuela”. 9 April 2010. 179 “Una década de impunidad en Venezuela”. which took prosecution out of the hands of the police and gave it to a new prosecutorial authority.176 Perhaps the most telling example of the government’s apparent lack of interest in ending impunity is that of the Barrios family of Aragua state. 1 June 2011. the ministerio público. The last murder followed a declaration that the Venezuelan state should protect them by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 181 “Democracia y Derechos Humanos en Venezuela”. the year before Chávez took office. the others are neither reinstated nor compensated. 3. there is a broad consensus that impunity is one of the main – if not the main – reasons. Sección del informe referida al caso de la Juez María Lourdes Afiuni”. including the current president of the Supreme Court. op. p. 25 June 2009. 17 August 2011 Page 20 ating the threat of resolving internal conflicts outside democratic and institutional channels.L/V/II. have lambasted the institutions in charge of combating crime. the overloaded. the interior and justice minister.184 a figure some believe may be “Código Orgánico Procesal Penal”. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. for failing to deal adequately with criminals. Gabriela Carina Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva. 14 January 2011. some experts say too little is done to train and properly equip police. 6 December 2009. such as the public prosecutor’s office.179 Prosecutors are over-worked. 2 June 2011. and even at times the president himself. state police chief. Police report that in some communities. 178 “Una década de impunidad en Venezuela”. prosecutors and judges in how to operate under the new criminal justice system. most of which are simply filed. 7 March 2011. 26. The harassment of the Barrios family is said by them and by human rights organisations to have stemmed originally from a petty dispute over free service at a business run by the first victim.

a figure that Provea says has risen from 1. denied by the government. 385. 493. Caracas. human rights organisations and universities. all of which contributed to discretionary behaviour. the investigative police. Cofavic. 33-35. and five national police corps: the National Guard. 167. Crisis Group consultant in former capacity. p.188 Over 20 per cent of registered killings are attributed to the investigative police (CICPC). CONAREPOL). which gives them ample opportunity to manipulate the facts.243 victims of extrajudicial executions by the security forces. op. 190 “Situación de los Derechos Humanos”.196 For example. op. and maritime police. results of the Laboratorio de Ciencias Sociales (LACSO) poll presented in Roberto Briceño-León. as well as lack of clear and uniform standards. Año 2007”.5) also relativises the concept of confrontation and underlines the extremely punitive (lethal) style of policing. these numbers paint only part of the picture. 49. op. the Supreme Court. 3. 187 “Informe Anual de la Fiscal General de la República. Anzoátegui. Only one police representative participated. “Situación de los Derechos Humanos”. Caracas. Judge Rossell subsequently resigned from the Supreme Court. CONAREPOL worked for nine months. 24 September 2000. sub-national governments. a businessman was kidnapped and murdered in Aragua.2. aprobada el 18 de Junio de 2007”. Three university students were mistakenly shot in a suspicious police operation in the capital neighbourhood of Kennedy (the “Kennedy massacre”). Luis Gerardo Gabaldón.. El Universal. the business community. 186 “Encuesta Nacional de Victimización y Seguridad Ciudadana”. including Falcón. Judge Jorge L Rossell described the policeman’s action as an “extremely grave violation of the right to life”. In 1999.193 it formulated recommendations after conducting a broad diagnosis of the 123 state and municipal police forces at the time. cit. p. alleging that the government had a “criminal policy of extermination”. aprobada el 18 de Junio de 2007”. 195 The diagnosis included a national victimisation and police perception survey of over 5. Aragua. killed 101 people in its first few months.187 According to the NGO Cofavic. 188 Cofavic stands for Comité de familiares de las víctimas de los sucesos ocurridos entre el 27 de febrero y los primeros días de marzo de 1989. Quito. p. The term “extermination group” (grupos de exterminio) was coined in 1999 in reference to a death-squad that began to operate in Portuguesa state and which. Venezuela had 24 state and 99 municipal police forces totalling 69. “Pretenden implantar la política antidelictiva del ajusticiamiento”.000 officers. This is in part the result of a badly managed proliferation that took place in the context of the national decentralisation that started in the late 1980s. the interior and justice minister announced in April 2006 the establishment of a commission to work out a police reform proposal (Comisión Nacional de Reforma Policial. the public prosecutor registered 7.185 93 per cent of respondents to a 2007 poll believed the police were involved in criminal activities. July 2010. The new democratically elected authorities wanted to create their own direct line of control over 191 . Yaracuy and Bolívar. “La Policía y su reforma en Venezuela”. “La experiencia de CONAREPOL: Lecciones aprendidas e implicaciones sobre las políticas estatales de seguridad ciudadana”. Urvio Revista Latinoamericana de Seguridad Ciudadana.000 members of specific groups.. “Informe para el Examen Periódico Universal de Venezuela de conformidad con la Resolución 5/1. Elizabeth de la Cueva. investigative police (CICPC).194 regulations and perceptions. p.191 Pressured by a public outcry following several prominent cases of killings by police. as were disciplinary and performance management mechanisms and standards for training and use of firearms.195 It detected overlap and confusion of functions among the forces. that this form of “social cleansing” is not merely a response by certain police officers but also official policy. 196 “Características de la Policía Venezolana”. 25 June 2009.192 Consisting of sixteen state and non-state representatives. political interference. p. pp. 2.. A consequence of the high level of citizen distrust is the low level of crime reporting mentioned above. “Características de la Policía Venezolana”. The practice subsequently spread to many other states. leading to the imprisonment of 412 officers. according to the then chief prosecutor of Portuguesa. cit.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.355 in 2005 to 2. Clear entry and promotion policies were missing. Seminario: La Seguridad Ciudadana como problema de estado. Guárico. Ministerio Público. There have occasionally been accusations. cit. 193 CONAREPOL had representatives of the interior and justice ministry. 189 “Informe para el Examen Periódico Universal de Venezuela de conformidad con la Resolución 5/1. op. intelligence service (DISIP. and three adolescent sons of another businessman and their driver were kidnapped and murdered in Caracas. Between January 2000 and November 2007. at entry only 17 per cent of Interview. formally part of the armed forces.190 Police rarely have to account for this. now SEBIN). 358. multiple homicides committed by security forces have increased since 2007.186 Cases of extrajudicial executions allegedly by the police are in the thousands. Irma Alvarez. Many police killings are disguised under the vague concept of “resistance to authority”.685 in 2009. conference paper. the ombudsman’s office.000 households and 121 focus group exercises involving over 5. inefficiency and abuse. CONAREPOL. March 2011. traffic police. the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court acquitted a police officer who had shot dead an innocent man who allegedly failed to stop his car when ordered to do so. p. the public prosecutor’s office. since they are first at the crime site. p. 2006. cit. European diplomat. All three cases involved the direct participation of police personnel. 194 In 2006. the National Assembly. 185 The great disparity between victims on the side of the police and civilians in situations reported as “resistance to authority” (1 to 13. 17 August 2011 Page 21 understated. no. Instituto Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Sociales (ILDIS). In a dissenting opinion. Lara. 192 Three scandals are considered the moral triggers for creating CONAREPOL.189 Yet. September 2007.

Unregistered arms and munitions should be prohibited. www. CONAREPOL described the police as a “paramilitary organisation”. venezuelaanalysis. 197 “Características de la Policía Venezolana”. as well as clear accountability and independent control mechanisms. a year after CONAREPOL submitted its report. frequently produce the “cockroach effect” – that is. diplomatic custody and protection of individuals. “La policía y su reforma en Venezuela”. 13 October 2003. as reflected in military leadership (the majority of state and municipal forces are under military command). The justification was an ostensibly internal police dispute. however. According to a 2009 study. Informe Anual Octubre 2002-Septiembre 2003”.200 It does not. op. Caracas. op.198 The “intervention” lasted a year. Kiraz Janicke. training modalities.206 The law provided for the PM’s progressive elimination and maintained state and municipal forces. cit. 44. recruitment. 60. op. migration and kidnapping. armament and a relationship with citizens based on a war logic that in turn generates a greater propensity to abuse and use of physical force.201 And those are too often large-scale operations that.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. former technical secretary of CONAREPOL. Ministerio del Poder Popular para las Relaciones Interiores y Justicia. a police chief interviewed by Crisis Group said. The number of sub-national police forces increased from 22 (1989) to 123 (2006) and then over 125 (2009). The general police council. coordination. The National Police are tasked to become active in those cases where engagement surpasses (a) the geographical boundaries or (b) the capacities of state and municipal forces. criminologist. the same year in which the National Police force became effective. “Atribuciones de la Policía Nacional”. “Características de la Policía Venezolana”. “Venezuela es el quinto país con más policías en la región”. “Recomendaciones Generales”.205 the president decreed creation of an integrated police system and a National Police through a new organic law that mirrored many of its recommendations.199 With 429 police officers per 100. op..com.000. 206 “Ley Orgánica del Servicio de Policía y del Cuerpo de Policía Nacional”. cit. Ibid. According to analyst Briceño-León. According to the CONAREPOL findings. was introduced in 2009.204 In 2008. Peña was succeeded by Chávez loyalist Barreto in 2004.. 201 Almost 35 per cent of officers work as guards. training. 70 per cent did not check recruits for criminal records.000 inhabitants. cit. the wearing of uniforms and proper identification made obligatory. “Características de la Policía Venezolana”. “Características de la Policía Venezolana”. cit. gob. 52-54. an inter-institutional body responsible for advising the interior and justice ministry on police-related policies. 170-171. p. the targets simply disappear from the their old location and reappear elsewhere. Accusing it of participating in the April 2002 coup against him. pp. 43. 205 CONAREPOL’s recommendations centred on creating an integrated system with a clear delimitation of functions and effective coordination mechanisms among the police forces. op. the Latin American average was 346 per 100. 13 April 2011. which were never returned. 203 ..207 Also in 2009. state and municipal forces are subjected to a tug-of-war between local and national governments. the recommendations were particularly focused on preventing and controlling abuse rather than on efficiency issues: “La policía y su reforma en Venezuela”. only 52 per cent of officers perform citizen security-related tasks. Crisis Group interview.000-strong force from the opposition mayor. pp. 21 December 2009. result in effective crime control and prevention. The case of the Caracas Metropolitan Police (PM) is emblematic. cit. pp. all under civilian command. cit. over 75 per cent had no procedural manual. Among the specific areas of responsibility of the National Police are customs. who is also the director of UNES. The law contains provisions on delimitation of functions between police forces. It proposed establishing a professional police career and called for enforcement of human rights principles. the prevalence of military symbols and terms. Comisión Nacional para la Reforma Policial. cit. 199 “Ministro Rincón afirma que las armas de la PM no serán devueltas”. 202 Crisis Group interview. 40 (only the Dominican Republic and Argentina had a higher ratio at the time of the CONAREPOL report). as well as unified standards and procedures.ve/index. 207 The council is headed by Soraya El Achkar. 17 September 2009. during which time the PM lost its arsenal of automatic weapons.php/la-nueva-policia-nacional/atribucionespolicia-nacional. “Venezuela launches new national police force to transform policing model”. control and operations. the Venezuelan ratio is among the highest in Latin America. El Nacional. (See Section IV. President Chávez seven months later sent troops with armoured vehicles to seize its installations and wrest control of the 9. 1 March 2011.197 Political interference with the police has been a constant. escorts and “general services”. op. 198 See the chronology of the takeover (intervención) in “Situación de los Derechos Humanos en Venezuela. 165-166. 204 Less than 20 per cent of the forces open an investigation when an officer is involved in a civilian’s death or harm. PROVEA. p.C. cit. pp. Consejo General de la Policía.policianacional.. under whom the PM was allegedly infiltrated by colectivos and other armed groups.. 95. Against a background of growing polarisation. 369-372. Alfredo Peña. op.203 CONAREPOL also identified a strong military influence and doctrine in the police. supported from outside by political forces loyal to the national government. the National Experimental Security University (Universidad Nacional Experi- security issues.202 In addition. along with underdeveloped internal control and accountability procedures. police numbers in the various municipalities and states bear little correlation with crime rates. 49.) 200 “Características de la Policía Venezolana”. May 2007. p. p. op. 17 August 2011 Page 22 the forces required a specific level of education and only 16 per cent a particular level of physical proficiency. pp. promotions. Noticiero Venevisión..

in the course of which aspirants underwent psychological tests and training. p. Crisis 211 Information provided by PNB Director Luis Fernández. 208 . First. See also: Rory Carroll. reflected not only in the name change to National Bolivarian Police (PNB). the armed forces.216 Presidential control is allegedly enforced by Cuban advisers. Anuario 2010.208 Critics have pointed to flaws in the vetting process and to the fact that the new body has not escaped the general process of politicisation of most public institutions. including recruits. THE MILITARY A key pillar in the Bolivarian project. Since then. cit. 213 Article 236 of the constitution gave the president the authority to promote officials from the rank of colonel upwards. the government ordered dissolution of the PM in three months. Bolivarianismo y socialismo del siglo XXI”. The Guardian. in which individuals ended up commanding former superiors or equals. Despite the president’s announcement that by the end of 2011 there would be 16. 3 March 2011. Catalina Niño Guarnizo (eds. “Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional”. “La peligrosa agonía de la PM”.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. 17 June 2011.000 Cubans are said to work in the various organs of Venezuelan intelligence and counter-intelligence. Gaceta Oficial no. 29 June 2011. El Universal. “Metropolitanos piden al MIJ cargo de policía”. 210 On 29 March 2011. while “malandros” (thugs) were hired. Caracas. op. he thus achieved removal of hundreds of real or potential opponents. Revista Desafíos. “La Fuerza Armada Nacional en la Revolución Bolivariana”. See also: “Policías metropolitanos protestan ante MIJ”. Agencia Venezolana de Noticias. Caracas. pp. who stated that the additional recruitments in September would allow the force to expand into the Caracas parishes of Antímano and La Vega and that 34. UNES) was founded to train members of the police. “Informe Anual 20102011”.212 The constitution also eliminated legislative control over senior military promotions.). 216 Crisis Group interview. “Informe Anual 2010-2011”. 3 March 2011.238 PM officers had been migrated into the national police. Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano. this reform (LOFAN 2005) split lines of command: the operational command was given to the president. LOFANB 2008 has been twice partially reformed. On 13 April 2010. Some PM officers claim many good police officers were left out. 3.280. cit. Francesca Ramos and Andrés Otálvaro. op.210 Armadas.217 C. Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano. While the initiative has received much credit from government supporters and critics alike. they centralised command structures and reinforced the executive’s control of the military. “Venezuela: army unrest grows over Chávez reforms”.215 The recent conversion of former non-commissioned officers (suboficiales profesionales) into technical officers (oficiales técnicos) generated a situation.214 In defiance of internal hierarchies and promotion orders.800 PM officers still without alternative prospects. 215 Crisis Group interview.213 In addition. Caracas. In 2005.000 in Caracas) are being evaluated. LOFAN)211 changed their character.722 National Police. 17 August 2011 Page 23 mental de Seguridad. the force’s presence is still limited to the capital. 209 Crisis Group interview. 2008. 287. 217 Around 5. it was reformed into the Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (LOFANB) in 2008. 212 In most Latin American countries. cit. op. the defence ministry announced the retirement of 193 members of the military. Bogotá.690 pasantes se incorporarán a la Policía Nacional Bolivariana en septiembre”. have been subjected to a number of interventions and alignment processes under Chávez. Francine Jacome. with the possibility of another threemonth extension. only 4. former police officer. the president is the commander in chief but does not exercise operational control over the armed forces. 28 February 2011. who are said to keep close scrutiny of the military leadership. Moreover. with 2. security expert. in Hans Mathieu. “La peligrosa agonía de la PM”. vol. See also. implementation has been rather slow. The 1999 constitution abolished the autonomy of the four armed forces vis-à-vis each other by creating a Joint Chiefs of Staff (Estado Mayor Conjunto) under the president as commander in chief.38.. 50 members of the PNB had already been accused of crimes as of April 2011. in 2009 and 2011. 5891.600 were reported to be on active duty in mid-June. Seguridad Regional en América Latina y el Caribe.The vetting process refers to the transition of PM members into the PNB. Formerly this had been a prerogative of the Senate. 7 July 2008. Together with the new constitution in 1999.. cit.18. but also in the existence of irregular entry mechanisms. which they regard as confirmation that the government is more interested in reinforcing its control of the police than in professionalising them. Chávez has made extensive use of a provision in the 2008 organic law that forces officers into retirement if they have not been promoted after two years. “2. the defence ministry took administrative command. p. op. Ultimas Noticias. four subsequent reforms to the organic law of the armed forces (Ley Orgánica de las Fuerzas The Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional (LOFAN) was approved in 2005 and replaced a 1995 law. 26 September 2005. doctrine and internal structure profoundly. Gaceta Oficial. 74. 214 The provision is contained in Article 92 of the LOFANB 2008.690 from the UNES scheduled to join in September. “Venezuela: Defensa y Seguridad. 15-16. at all levels. the president added operational command. p. 23.000 more applicants (including 12. The initial three months had passed at the end of June with some 4. security expert.209 Another concern is the risk that the thousands of Metropolitan Police officers who will not be taken into the PNB and for whom the government does not seem to have any alternative plan will turn to crime. By April 2011. 29 June 2011.

In 2007.. December 2010. socialismo o muerte”)225 became the official salute of the institution. The Bolivarian Armed Forces will be organised by the state to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the Nation. “Civilian Authority without Civilian Dominance? Assessing Venezuelan Political-Military Relations under Chávez”. who make up the biggest share. and Chávez loyalists. security and development matters. 3 March 2011. the armed forces underwent a profound process of politicisation. p. head of the Strategic Operational Command (CEO). The president’s unorthodox promotion policies.. there are estimates that over 2. 226 “Informe Anual 2010-1011”. 65-66.. can authorise the president to rule by decree. in accordance with the Constitution and the law. p. by an enabling law. cit. 227 Some experts say the military is vertically divided into “constitutionalists”. a constitutional amendment that the president submitted to the National Assembly declared that: The Bolivarian Armed Forces constitute an essentially patriotic. However.. pp. “Informe Anual 2010-1011”. the principles of integral defence and the popular war of resistance. especially in the framework of the Dispositivo Bicentenario de Seguridad (DIBISE) (Section III. former army 223 Group interview. the 1999 constitution and subsequent laws reinforced the notion of a civic-military alliance in defence. cit.D). including senior officers. 218 The constitution establishes a shared responsibility between state and society for security and defence. 2 March 2011. Predominant tendencies are said to differ in the service branches.. p. 224 The National Assembly. General Henry Rangel Silva. Caracas. The . Two days later. 221 Crisis Group interview. defend it from any external and internal attack.223 The constitutional reform was not adopted. 25. 219 Article 328 of the constitution assigns the armed forces the role of “cooperating in the maintenance of internal order”. p. cit. Deborah Norden. 2. 18 December 2002. This is reinforced in the 2002 Organic Law on National Security (Ley Orgánica de Seguridad de la Nación). 18 November 2010. 91. but the president implemented it de facto through an enabling law and a decree. p. op. planning and execution of Bolivarian military doctrine. are members of the ruling PSUV party. 220 Francine Jacome. 37. “Fatherland. Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano. 18 March 2011. its performance in repressing civil unrest has sparked many accusations of human rights violations. 14.219 but have also been tasked with expropriating land and repressing civilian protests. these were reinforced by a constitutional mandate in 1999 that specified participation should be “active”. Stratfor Global Intelligence. cit.226 The above developments have not been without costs. Proyecto de Reforma de la Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela. starting with Plan Bolivar in 2000. op. cit. 14. 3.A). The 1983 and 1995 LOFANs already gave the military internal development tasks. Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano. socialism or death” (“Patria. popular and anti-imperialistic body …. authored by an anonymous group of mid-ranking and junior officers (Comacates). See also “Special report: Venezuela’s Control of the Armed Forces”. 17 August 2011 Page 24 Secondly. op. Gaceta Oficial no. “Venezuela: Ascendido general ‘casado’ con gobierno de Chávez”. 287. pp. “neutrals”. social and technical development of the Nation. cit. op. Francine Jacome. 3 May 2010. op. We are married to this project”. “Fuerzas Armadas de Venezuela: A los 200 años”. thereby giving the military a central responsibility in carrying out the Bolivarian project. Control Ciudadano notes that active members of the military. Caracas. p. It continues to be used in crime control. 286-287. is part of the armed forces.000 members of the armed forces occupy public administration posts. “Informe Sobre Situación de Convivencia y Seguridad Ciudadana en Venezuela”. but his concern was dismissed by Chávez. 222 Norden.. Thirdly. 90. Article 328. p. international NGO. which has traditionally intervened when police riot squads were inadequate. op.. Yolanda Valery. in the framework of the concept of “integral security and defence” (seguridad y defensa integral). op. as well as active participation in plans for the economic. Norden. p. Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano..220 In addition. “La Fuerza Armada Nacional en la Revolución Bolivariana”.227 In April 2010.222 Another expression of the civicmilitary alliance was creation of the Guardia Territorial in 2005 – transformed into the militia and formally integrated into the armed forces in 2008 – which meant the mobilisation and militarisation of civilians for defence purposes (see Section V. cit. a life project and a commander in chief. BBC Mundo.218 Over the years.221 at the same time as military officials actively participate in social and economic projects. and cooperation in the tasks of maintaining citizen security and internal order. 288. said in November 2010 that the “national armed forces are not half but completely loyal towards a people. 72. which established the armed forces as an “essentially professional institution.224 Contrary to the 1999 constitution. cit. 16. pp. 14. Revista Nueva Sociedad no. p. the 2008 LOFANB converted the military into the “Bolivarian National Armed Forces” (FANB).213. Francine Jacome. the armed forces have become increasingly active in crime fighting. op. security expert. 225 Later converted into “Socialist fatherland or death” (Patria socialista o muerte). op. cit.. p. which was interpreted by some as a warning of a rebellion in case of an opposition victory. Paz Activa. who hold to a non-political mandate. p. and assure the integrity of the geographic space through the study. Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano. op.594. January-February 2008. “Informe Anual 2010-1011”. The general added that the people and the armed forces would not accept an opposition government. the politicisation of the military and the creation of a parallel armed body – the militias – provoked discontent across and divisions within the institution.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. cit. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza expressed concern that an army commander would threaten rebellion. “Informe Anual 2010-2011”. without political activism”. 4. The National Guard (GN).

the air force is divided. Asociación Civil Control Ciudadano. not the U.232 The so-called Sun Cartel (Cartel de los Soles. Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act”. 28 April 2011. 4 April 2011. However. former general. In September 2008. p. the most prominent being the ex-defence minister.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. cit. Makled acquired the majority of shares of the major private airline Aeropostal S. security expert. 240 Crisis Group interviews. security expert.238 Venezuelan authorities have generally not taken significant action against alleged military complicity with or active participation in crimes that some experts claim could not occur without the president’s tacit consent.230 A 40 per cent pay rise for all ranks announced in April 2010 has been interpreted as a general appeasement measure. attracted by possibilities for lucrative bribes from gasoline and other illicit trade. Caracas.228 Around 200 members of the military. Washington DC. Analysts suspect that a permissive attitude allows the president to enforce loyalty from senior officers. Department of the Treasury. Crisis Group interviews. who was finally extradited to Venezuela on 11 May 2011.240 The government has an opportunity to dispel doubts. “Additional Designations. It has committed to satisfy all navy has traditionally been against Chávez. cit. it is widely believed that economic considerations (including repayment of some $800 million in trade debts) and the expectation Venezuela would capture and extradite guerrillas in turn were behind this gesture. Caracas. which had also filed a request. former general. While still in Colombian custody. 236 Jeremy McDermott. Geoffrey Ramsey. 2 March 2011. 230 Baduel was convicted of corruption and sentenced to almost eight years of prison in May 2010. publicly explained his request for retirement as due to the intrusion of the Cuban military into the Venezuelan armed forces. 232 The other two were former Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín and Hugo Carvajal (then head of military intelligence. 12 December 2008. op. 2 March 2011. accusing them of “materially aiding the Colombian FARC guerrillas in drug trafficking”. humanitarian organisation. President Santos in late 2010 announced that Makled would be extradited to Venezuela. he said that he had had 40 active Venezuelan generals on his payroll and had massively bribed and cooperated with senior government officials and militaries in his drugbusiness. 2. because of lack of pay rises and perks.S. 2 March 2011. Caracas. 28 February 2011. goes into the courts. 1 March 2011. 76. InSight. former military intelligence officer. “Walid Makled habla en ‘El Nacional’: ‘Hasta regalé carros último modelo a Diputados de la AN’”. PSUV.237 Anticipating a high return for the gesture. Crisis Group interview. former general. 231 “Special Report”. The Colombian authorities ratified Santos’s decision in April 2011. 19 April 2011. when the case of Makled.236 The U. “Venezuela seizes almost 7 tons cocaine hidden in heavy machinery”.234 Walid Makled was captured in August 2010 by Colombian authorities on their territory. as the case of General Silva shows. even though a large share has to be given to superiors. and obtained concessions to operate an important airport in Valencia (Venezuela). 233 Crisis Group interview. DGIM. the U. 237 Ibid. Believed to have a wealth of information about the involvement in dirty business of senior military and parts of the Venezuelan political leadership. and Makled faced severer charges in his home country. in August 2010. Caracas. as well as approximately half the deposits and docks at Puerto Cabello port. the army and National Guard support Chávez the strongest. op.233 Corruption in the middle and lower ranks is reportedly facilitating the operations of organised crime across the country. 28 February 2011.235 Cooperation included more than $2 million in campaign contributions to the government party. former senior public official. Allegations abound not just since the capture of an alleged Venezuelan drug kingpin.A.239 On the contrary. 19 September 2008. noticias24.231 The other rather high price that the president seems prepared to pay in exchange for loyalty is the implication of senior military members and their subordinates in crime. “Vea la entrevista a Walid Makled”. 229 Crisis Group interview. See also.229 Former allies of the president who have resisted the changes have ended up in jail. mainly from the higher ranks.S.. he became a central pawn in relations between Caracas and Bogotá.S. those under suspicion have been promoted to very high positions. “Treasury targets Venezuelan government officials supporting the FARC”.. Young national guards are competing for posts in the border regions. are retiring annually because of discontent. 239 Crisis Group interviews. There are also horizontal divisions: the anti-Chávez line is stronger in the lower ranks.S. Maracaibo. Office of Foreign Assets Control. General Raúl Isaías Baduel. press release. Among them was the abovementioned General Silva. InSight. 4 March 2011. a reference to the soles – suns – on the epaulets of generals) is said to be a major player in the Venezuelan drugs trade. 235 In the framework of these deals. an erstwhile Chávez loyalist.S. Globovisión. now president. 228 “Informe Anual 2010-1011”. 10 October 2010.. 28 February 2011. 17 August 2011 Page 25 General Antonio Rivero González.. Stratfor. claims an expert on military issues. Caracas. Caracas. state telecommunications corporation Cantv). Treasury Department added three senior Venezuelan officials to its drug kingpin list. U. security expert. calculates that Makled introduced up to ten tons of cocaine into its territory each month. 2 March 2011. who protested the proposed constitutional reform in 2007. p. Walid Makled. 238 Santos explained that Venezuela’s extradition request had preceded that of the U. Caracas. 8 July 2011. Caracas. 234 . ibid. “Makled’s window into trafficking in Venezuela closing”.

El Universal.251 While the law makes enlistment voluntary. cit. security analyst. 245 Rocío San Miguel. ready to defend the revolution by force if need be. The Combat Corps (cuerpos combatientes) are formed by public and private institution employees. informe de seguimiento. 27-28. defence and the integrated development of the nation”. also. established in 2005 under the name of Guardia Territorial.000 to 800.250 The Socialist Front of Venezuelan Oil workers reported in June 2010 that 150. 9 June 2011. Chávez has frequently said it was necessary to arm the militias. some experts say. analítica. www. cit.242 D. there have been complaints about coercion.253 At the same time as the National Assembly is discussing a new control of firearms law. 29 July 2009. El Universal. the current estimate is 300.244 Frequently denounced as the president’s private army.5. 17 August 2011 Page 26 due process requirements. Stratfor. 244 “Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana”. “La doctrina militar bolivariana y el poder nacional”. the women and gender issues ministry (ministerio del poder popular para la mujer y la igualdad de género) initiated a combat corps. op. trained on weekends and equipped.mil. security. Caracas. “Armar a la Milicia Bolivariana impone miedo en la sociedad”. the president said. 243 “Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional”. 249 “Ministra León anunció juramentación de 1200 mujeres combatientes para el mes de agosto”.246 Thousands of citizens have been enlisted. “Venezuela promete que Makled gozará de un debido proceso”. the National Guard. 23 July 2009. op. 21 October 2009.255 has been translated by the head of state in a 2009 speech as the “capacity to establish networks of intelligence against infiltrations”..milicia. 2008. processing and disseminating the information … of the communal councils. MNB) and formally integrated into the armed forces as their fifth component.252 The government has made no secret of its objective to create a “people in arms”. 2 March 2011. the militia. preparing and organising the people toward integrated defence in order to … contribute to maintaining the internal order.249 In early 2010.mil. 7. 256 Hugo Chávez Frías. 253 On 2 July 2009.248 In July 2010. Guardia Territorial. 4. 14 June 2011. Chapter V. sweep the bourgeoisie from all political and economic spaces. op.245 the MNB’s official mission is “training. “Carta al diputado Rafael Gil Barrios”.com.256 thereby raising concerns about the president’s intentions to raise an army of citizens spying on each other. deepen the revolution”. they were only active when training or called up for a specific purpose. “El gobierno define la línea de las milicias obreras”.243 The 2008 LOFANB spelled out for the first time the mission and functions of the institution. 248 www. 2005.200 women were to be sworn.. his revelations could carry a high political cost. the minister later said. so some experts believe the case will be kept under tight presidential control. the navy. op. 241 “Chávez advierte que Milicia Campesina actuará contra agresor interno y externo”.5933. what the law describes as “obtaining. Aló Presidente Teórico. Caracas. Article 11.com. Civilis. public and private institutions. absolutely all power in Venezuela. pp. p. While the government projects to build a force of several million. informe21. 254 The government had always said the militias were not fulltime enterprises. cit. 251 “Amenazas y Restricciones a los Derechos Humanos y la Democracia en Venezuela”.241 However. 27. a 2011 amendment of the 2008 LOFANB establishes a separate officer corps for the militia that.000 members from state companies had been organised in militias. 13 October 2010. enero – septiembre 2010”. closely connected to the communal councils. cit. El Nacional. 9 May 2011.milicia. Crisis Group phone interview. 247 Crisis Group interview. the air force. 28 January 2010. President Chávez announced economic sector bodies: the peasants militia (milicia campesina) and the workers mili- tia (milicia obrera). Vanguardia. 2010. security expert. p.. 31 March 2011. The Territorial Militias (milicias territoriales) are formed at community level.. 250 . 252 Ibid.247 The MNB is organised at three levels. CaracolTV. security expert. THE MILITIAS The concept of the civil-military alliance is nowhere better incarnated than in the militias. op. The creation of a professional officer corps suggests they may now have permanent access not only to regular arms but possibly also to more powerful weapons. op. necessary to elaborate integrated development plans. on 13 April 2010 he stated: “You must be ready to take up your arms at any time and give your life if necessary for the Bolivarian revolution … you know what you would have to do. 246 “Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana”.254 Furthermore. which was renamed the National Bolivarian Militia (Milicia Nacional Bolivariana.ve. 242 Crisis Group phone interview. programs and projects …”. simply seize all. the armed forces are the people in arms”. “Chávez exige acelerar y armar a milicias populares”. Some offices of the Labour Inspectorate reportedly refuse to approve labour contracts of companies whose employees have not formed militias or are not members of the government party. “Special Report”. for example. “Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana” (2008). p. Quoted in “Amenazas y restricciones a los derechos humanos y la democracia en Venezuela.ve. into which. Article 46.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. “the army. Article 44.. Suhelis Tejero Puntes. cit. Gaceta Oficial no. 21 February 2010. 255 “Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana” (2009). 1. cit.000. no. guarantees permanent access to war weapons. which are local structures that report directly to the presidency. 4 October 2010.

Caracas. Caracas. 2 March 2011. Caracas.260 and their fire-power compared to the regular armed forces is minimal. its leaders are making a disciplined effort to avoid falling into the trap of provocation. Caracas. failing to disarm criminal groups and exacerbating political divisions with aggressive rhetoric. 257 Aló Presidente. Moreover. The opposition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) has agreed on two principles: it will select a single candidate in primaries in February 2012 and run on a single ballot. Caracas. The executive has systematically co-opted the other branches of state. which could give the government an excuse to resort to drastic measures. Those who signed a series of petitions in 2002 and 2003 calling for a recall referendum against the president have been systematically excluded from govern263 262 . 31 October 2010. the militias seem to be primarily a means for further indoctrinating the population. the state oil corporation.257 Complaints include that the existence of a separate army under direct presidential command suggests distrust of the institution.262 should there be an opposition government. 2 March 2011. 2 July 2011. former general. and many join under pressure. the government rode out the protest. even if the playing field is not level. 22 November 2011. 265 This fear has particularly increased due to the so called Listas Tascón and Maisanta. rather than conviction. 2 March 2011.259 According to an analyst. 258 Crisis Group interview. but more than constituting a serious military threat. and while there may be trouble during the campaign. “Pronóstico reservado”.261 The potential for abuse of war weapons in civilian hands should not be underestimated. VI. The answer depends on many factors. whoever wins. As the above analysis has shown.265 Persuaded by the presi- Crisis Group interviews. 261 Crisis Group interview. violence not only appears to be a price the government is willing to pay for loyalty and political control but is also a result of inadequate crime prevention policies. security expert.264 Those who make up the president’s traditional constituency are increasingly fearful of the possible consequences of taking a critical attitude towards the government. and its incorporation into the security forces is a move to put a check on the military elite and prevent a potential coup. If he stays in control. security expert. poses the question whether the state’s capacity to effect peaceful. CONFLICT RISKS Venezuela has become a much more violent country under President Chávez. Social protests are still fragmented. democratic change has been entirely eroded. and the land is on the brink of serious political violence. Short-term conflict risks are mitigated by several factors. that citizens who have other jobs now officially form part of the armed forces is an effort to de-professionalise the regular institution. international NGO representative. then retaliated by firing almost 20. the opposition sought to oust President Chávez through a paro cívico (general strike). The opposition is united in its purpose to defeat Chávez electorally. The president and his allies have directly fuelled violence by arming civilians. Crisis Group interview. focused primarily on the oil industry. security expert. security expert. a reflection of successful containment by the government and the fact that discontent has not reached a critical level. the constant evocation of a possible civil war scenario and cultivation of the image of internal aggressors can have a profound impact on the social fabric and lower the bar for deadly political violence.000 at PdVSA. the real danger would be likely to come in the post-election scenario. Between October 2002 and February 2003. Semana. Although oil production almost ceased. 366. the situation is unlikely to come to a head before the 2012 presidential elections. 264 The experience of the failed general strike in 2002-2003 is another disincentive.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.000. 260 The number of militia members sufficiently well-trained to use weapons effectively.258 It is difficult to judge the MNB’s real potential. despite the high numbers on paper. 28 February 2011. The president’s announcement of a “violent revolution led by the revolutionary military and the Venezuelan people”. 259 Crisis Group interview. Caracas. no. Miranda. and there is hardly any control over who enters the militias. securing electoral support and intimidating opponents. 17 August 2011 Page 27 Creation of the militias has been a cause for discontent among parts of the regular military. for convenience or for the money earned by attending training. Its members are poorly trained.263 Overall. thereby in large measure blocking the mechanisms which in a democracy enable the peaceful resolution of disputes. those actually capable of being mobilised do not exceed 40. and the president’s illness has added considerable uncertainty. 2 March 2011.

memories of the unsuccessful occupation of the Plaza Altamira in 2002-2003 are still fresh so that no one seems keen to repeat the experience. “51% cree necesario cambiar de Presidente en 2012”. 1 June 2011. “Situación de los Derechos Humanos”. with several of its leaders fleeing into exile. It also gerrymandered constituency boundaries in order to reduce the number of seats available to the opposition. 268 In a bid to force the resignation of the president. op. Chávez’s candidates in national legislative elections obtained less than half the popular vote. claiming the future of his presidency was at stake. and the protest eventually fizzled out.893 between October 2008 and September 2009. and its institutional control provides the means to do so.opec. 272 Venezuela´s greatest economic vulnerability comes from the fact that. but not least. however. many prefer to keep silent rather than risk being thrown off a waiting list or losing existing benefits. Political tension could also increase in the run-up to the elections. led by dissident generals and admirals. which contributed to a drop in Chávez’s popular support. it classifies some 12 million Venezuelans according to political affiliation. only three out of ten think the same of the opposition. video. p. p. The country is only now recovering from the 2009-2010 economic recession. 17 August 2011 Page 28 dent’s promises of future benefits.271 To the extent that rising oil prices put cash in the public purse. . Others do not perceive an attractive alternative to Chávez. cit.268 This equilibrium is very fragile. four out of ten citizens think the president has the “best ideas to resolve the problems of the country”. cit. The opposition has tried to use its enhanced presence to reinforce parliamentary oversight and challenge the PSUV government. the regime changed the electoral law to eliminate proportional representation (which was mandated by the 1999 constitution). an enabling law.670 protests were recorded between January and the end of May 2011 alone. the president will be able to grant pay-rises. Street demonstrations and protests have continued their upward trend in 2011269 – a reflection of unresolved social and economic problems that have been exacerbated by heavy rain storms at the end of 2010 and further radicalisation of the Boli- varian project. www. fund social programs and maintain or re-expand his electoral support base. 24 May 2006. Also see Crisis Group Briefing. 273 Prior to the legislative elections of September 2010. granted Chávez decree powers for eighteen months in a wide range of areas.. which it had been unable to do since boycotting the 2005 parliamentary election. as became clear Between September 2010 and January 2011. “La Lista: un pueblo bajo sospecha”. Given the economy’s vulnerability.273 The new National Assembly has been ineffective as a legislative body. El Universal. The level of control the president exercises over senior officials is so strong that reportedly most do not dare to speak to the opposition. On the other hand.274 Despite occasional conciliatory gestures.272 If social discontent cannot be managed in this way. Caracas. 26 November 2011. and the discontented have left the forces instead of stirring up opposition from within. The government opted not to confront them. 269 According to the Social Conflict Observatory (Observatorio de Conflictividad Social). YouTube. 271 Consultores 21 SA’s June 2009 poll found that less than 38 per cent of respondents believed Chávez was doing a good job. 94 per cent of its export earnings come from oil. the government might resort to more drastic ways of dealing with protests. opposition leader. Martínez. released on 1 June 2011. such as hunger strikes or even sewing their lips together.htm. occupied the Plaza Francia in Altamira (east Caracas) for several months. especially if polls show the contest to be close. Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution.315 protests between October 2009 and September 2010 compared to 2. 341. with 98 of 165 seats. 8. The gap between the 40 per cent who would vote for the opposition and the 51 per cent who want a change may be attributable to the fact the opposition does not yet have an official candidate. over 1. 267 Crisis Group interview. The inflation rate is close to 30 per cent (2010) www.youtube. for example. this is not guaranteed. Eugenio G. 270 ment jobs and state benefits ever since. 274 Only one law was passed in the first half of 2011. according to the 2009 numbers of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). however. compared to 52 per cent in 2006. 51 per cent of interviewees favour a change at the top from the 2012 elections.270 Some protesters are turning to more radical methods. The Lista Maisanta is an enhanced version. The government has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not shy away from tilting the playing field in its favour. Targeted promotions and other benefits have installed a loyal leadership. thereby severely curtailing the powers of the legislature and undermining electoral results. the president appears to have no need to fear the military in the short term. its functions were severely curtailed by the president in December 2010. when the newly elected National Assembly with considerable opposition presence came in. These proceeds also account for over half the federal budget revenues and 30 per cent of GDP. deep animosity persists between the two camps. com/watch?v=jS_4TLvphW8. named after the government legislator who circulated their names and identity-card numbers on a CD. the government-controlled old legislature adopted a raft of controversial legislation. a group of military officers.267 Last. The most inflammatory item. 40 per cent would vote for a hypothetical opposition candidate.org/ opec_web/en/about_us/171. The result was a legislature in which the government – though it received a minority of the popular vote – holds a majority. as a result of the Lista Tascón.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. 42 per cent would vote for the president.266 Despite its internal divisions. it is also thought to reflect that the opposition is not considered to have capitalised yet on the president’s decline in support. 266 According to a survey by the Hinterlaces firm. causing huge opposition resentment. including information from other databases of the government. In September 2010. op. Human rights NGO Provea registered 3. despite the fact that he campaigned alongside them.

because of death or physical incapacity. which would be very dangerous. fair to say that the dismantling of autonomous institutions and disregard on the part of the government for constitutional norms have left the president as the de facto principal arbiter of disputes. 278 In one scenario. In order to prevent serious bloodshed in the run up to and beyond the 2012 elections. Latin American Weekly Report. If the president remains in control. cit. only stopping when the National Guard intervened. as well as in the armed forces. Moreover. the short-term outlook will be one of more violence. Article 234 states that the vice president can also take over the office for up to 90 days. a weakening of Chávez could open space for new coalitions and a realignment of political forces.277 It is difficult to predict the impact that Chávez’s health will have. the latent political violence he has helped foment could take a more chaotic form. op. In that case. regardless of political affiliation. 5 July 2011. Concerns regarding the president’s health triggered by his hospitalisation in Cuba and his confirmation on 30 June 2011 that he has cancer have generated uncertainty over his ability to lead the country into the 2012 elections and beyond. the National Assembly decides by majority vote whether the absence is to be considered definitive. if the post2012 authorities make a serious attempt to combat organised crime. One possible contender. including the armed struggle”.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.and longterm prospects. the 2012 presidential election offers both government and opposition a chance to present detailed proposals for tackling the crime problem that has become the principal concern of all Venezuelans. the vice president takes over until the end of the term. noticias 24. “Pronóstico reservado”. his ministers asserted that he was running the government from Havana. exacerbated by the large number of firearms in circulation and the presence of multiple armed groups.276 It also gave a foretaste of what could happen if the power vacuum became real in the event of a serious deterioration in his health. On the contrary. his absence from the scene. he delegated for the first time some administrative and budgetary powers to Vice President Elías Jaua and Finance and Planning Minister Jorge Giordani. Indeed. Conditions are such that it is hard to see any electoral result bringing relief in the short run. the perspective of six additional years of chavismo could well cause the opposition’s unity and discipline to disintegrate and radical elements to resort to violence. “Chavez brother raises possibility of armed struggle as Venezuela ponders president’s health”. 277 “Chávez returns but big questions remain – and not just for Venezuela”. openly embraced violence as legitimate. stating in June that “it would be inexcusable to limit ourselves to only the electoral and not see other forms of struggle. Evidence emerged of faction-fighting in the ranks of the ruling PSUV party. could lead to increased chaos and possible violence. 7 July 2011. the degree of polarisation and militarisation of society entails serious risks of an outbreak of political violence once the option of democratic conflict resolution by election is out of the way. 27 June 2011. if the president becomes definitively unable to govern. or even his perceived weakness. . in the last two years of the mandate. however. 17 August 2011 Page 29 when government and opposition deputies came to blows in the parliament on 10 February 2011. he will retain the ability to employ violence (by state agents or loyal irregular groups) to keep power in extremis. the armed forces and the opposition should publicly pledge to abide by the constitutional rules and condemn violence as a means of gaining or retaining power. 276 Despite being in intensive care for several days.278 In a more positive scenario. Chávez initially did not delegate his power to the vice president. According to Article 233 of the constitution. the extensive presence of organised crime networks will continue to represent a serious threat to the country’s institutions. in case of temporary absence. InterAmerican Security Watch. Chávez has not specified the type of cancer he has. he returned to Cuba on 16 July to initiate treatment. his brother Adan Chávez. It is. On 13 July. members of the ruling party. possibly decreasing the polarisation. and this can be prolonged for another 90 days by the National Assembly. he revealed that he might require chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy but did not provide further details on the treatment or its duration.275 His absence from public view for some weeks highlighted the lack of an alternative leadership and the extremely personalised character of the regime. Another is that they prop up a mainly civilian government. the military would likely take some action. The economy is another key variable that will influence medium. since the groups concerned are unlikely to give way without a serious fight. and analysts warned that opposition unity might not last if the common presidential foe were no longer in charge. If he does not. A third would have them take power on their own. the armed forces split. “Análisis AP: el Ejército será un actor crucial en medio de la incertidumbre en Venezuela”. the government. Moreover. After a brief stay in Caracas for the bicentenary celebrations. governor of 275 Barinas state. If the temporary absence exceeds 90 consecutive days. stability and state authority whatever the complexion of the next government. While the president and the head of the armed forces have already indicated that they would not accept an opposition victory. many of them entirely outside the law. Before returning to Havana. On 25 July he was back in Caracas underlining his firm intention to run for the presidency in 2012 but returned again to Cuba to continue treatment. Chávez has not given any indication about possible successors.

President Chávez assumed power with the promise to root out corruption and tackle violence. it cannot wash its hands of them. whatever the result. politicised and corrupt security forces – has exacerbated citizen security problems. urban colectivos and other groups outside the law would remove major potential risks of uncontrolled violence.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. it might unleash what is currently latent political violence. institutional decline – particularly manifest in the absence of an independent and functioning justice system and in dysfunctional. the prospect of the 2012 presidential election does not bring much relief. To safeguard Venezuela from an outbreak of deadly violence. the president’s problematic health has increased the uncertainties regarding short. as well as the democratic standards of intergovernmental organisations of which it is a member. massive. The government needs to prove that it is serious about its anti-crime stance. In a context of high levels of politicisation and militarisation of society. the armed forces and the opposition publicly commit to resort exclusively to peaceful and constitutional means of conflict resolution. members of the ruling party. has become inherent to President Chávez’s political project. CONCLUSION In 1999. or violence. 279 . police corruption and brutality and the presence of multiple armed groups in collusion with elements of the security forces. 17 August 2011 This includes the Organisation of American States and the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. VII.279 Close neighbours and trading partners in particular have an interest in ensuring democratic stability and in minimising the possibility that “de-institutionalisation” and chaos will lead to further proliferation of organised crime. Under the “Bolivarian revolution”. while citizen militias are armed and trained to defend the revolution by force. uncontrolled circulation of weapons. reinstate the rule of law and root out corruption in state institutions. criminal violence is out of control. which had both increased under previous administrations. While many of these problems precede the current government. A failure to defuse the time bomb would mean the loss of thousands of lives and seriously threaten the country’s stability. Violence. Disarming and dismantling the FBL. constructive engagement with Colombia and the initial restoration of cross-border cooperation and crime control seems to show that the government will take action when vested interests are at stake. It also needs to develop and implement effective strategies as follow-up on its commitments to address drug trafficking. Twelve years later. On the contrary.and medium-term stability. Regarding neighbours and the wider international community. the presence of illegal armed groups in Venezuela and organised criminal violence. or its threat. Moreover. Armed groups and high-level complicity with crime have gone unpunished. starting with the police and the armed forces. they should be prepared to engage in mediation efforts. Bogotá/Brussels. fuelled by soaring impunity. The government needs to prove it can control weapons. and the correct approach is used. 17 August 2011 Page 30 Isolated or half-hearted measures will have little impact: there must be an integrated strategy to reduce crime and safeguard the right to life and property. it is imperative that the government. starting by disarming and dismantling criminal groups and implementing comprehensive policies to protect the population. In the event of serious tensions. Friendly neighbours and commercial partners should use their leverage to remind the government to respect its own constitution.

. 17 August 2011 Page 31 APPENDIX A MAP OF VENEZUELA Reproduced with permission from the University of Texas at Austin.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.

17 August 2011 Page 32 APPENDIX B GLOSSARY CAANNAUC BACRIM CICPC CNE CEO CONAREPOL DEA DGIM DIBISE ELN EVPSC FANB FARC FBL GNB IISS INE KP LOFAN LOFANB MNB OAS ONA OVV PM PNB Provea PSUV SEBIN UNES United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia).S. Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group. term used by the Colombian government to refer to illegal armed groups formed after the end of paramilitary demobilisation. Penales y Criminálisticas) National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral) Strategic Operational Command (Comando Estratégico Operacional) National Commission for Police Reform (Comisión Nacional de Reforma Policial) (U.) Drug Enforcement Administration Military Intelligence Agency (Dirección General de Inteligencia Militar) Bicentenary Security Mechanism (Dispositivo Bicentenario de Seguridad) National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional). National Investigative Police (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. Victimisation and Citizen Security Perception Survey (Encuesta de Victimización y Percepción de Seguridad Ciudadana) Bolivarian National Armed Forces (Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana) Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). umbrella body of paramilitary groups whose demobilisation started in 2003 and officially ended in 2006. Criminal groups (bandas criminales). Colombia’s main insurgent group and the oldest guerrilla force in the Americas. Bolivarian Liberation Forces (Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación) Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana) International Institute for Strategic Studies National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística) Kimberly Process Organic Law of the Armed Forces (Ley Orgánica de las Fuerzas Armadas) Organic Law of the Bolivarian Armed Forces (Ley Orgánica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana) National Bolivarian Militia (Milicia Nacional Bolivariana) Organisation of American States National Anti-Drugs Office (Oficina Nacional Antidrogas) Venezuelan Violence Observatory (Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia) Metropolitan Police (Policía Metropolitana) National Bolivarian Police (Policía Nacional Bolivariana) Venezuelan Human Rights Education-Action Program (Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos) United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) Bolivarian Intelligence Agency (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia) National Experimental Security University (Universidad Nacional Experimental de Seguridad) .

Guinea-Bissau. The Charitable Foundation. Syria and Yemen. Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Canadian International Development Agency. Kabul. this includes Burundi. Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The following governmental departments and agencies have provided funding in recent years: Australian Agency for International Development. Ploughshares Fund. Pristina and Tbilisi) and has local field representation in fourteen additional locations (Baku. Somalia. Bangladesh. Russia (North Caucasus). Taiwan Strait. Sierra Leone. Japan International Cooperation Agency. Jewish World Watch. Ethiopia. Crisis Group is chaired by former U. Philippines.S. Swedish International Development Agency. Serbia and Turkey. Armenia. Bolivia. Kazakhstan. Irish Aid. Iran.S. Bogotá. Pakistan.org. The Elders Foundation. Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Israel-Palestine. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Nairobi. Colombia. Thailand. Port-au-Prince. Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Morocco. Gulf States. Rwanda. Crisis Group works closely with governments and those who influence them. Kinshasa. Ambassador Thomas Pickering. escalation or recurrence of violent conflict. a twelve-page monthly bulletin. www. in Europe. Macedonia. non-governmental organisation. former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.S. Dili. Humanity United. Burma/Myanmar. Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Afghanistan. in the Middle East and North Africa. diplomacy. 17 August 2011 Page 33 APPENDIX C ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent. Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bujumbura. Central African Republic. Crisis Group also publishes CrisisWatch. Crisis Group currently covers some 60 areas of actual or potential conflict across four continents.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. Kenya. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Victor Pinchuk Foundation. Pretoria. U. Agency for International Development. Principality of Liechtenstein. William & Flora Hewlett Foundation. Hunt Alternatives Fund. Austrian Development Agency. Madagascar. New Zealand Agency for International Development. Jerusalem. Crisis Group’s reports and briefing papers are distributed widely by email and made available simultaneously on the website. Sudan. Kyrgyz- stan. a smaller one in London and liaison presences in Moscow and Beijing. Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. with major advocacy offices in Washington DC (where it is based as a legal entity) and New York. Canadian International Development and Research Centre. Iraq. European Commission. Henry Luce Foundation. Guatemala. August 2011 . Dakar. Kathmandu. John D. Azerbaijan. Saudi Arabia. Crisis Group receives financial support from a wide range of governments. Lebanon. institutional foundations. North Korea. Open Society Institute. Georgia. Sigrid Rausing Trust. Côte d’Ivoire. and private sources. Timor-Leste. to highlight its crisis analyses and to generate support for its policy prescriptions. Liberia. Fund. business and the media – is directly involved in helping to bring the reports and recommendations to the attention of senior policy-makers around the world. Guinea. Damascus. with some 130 staff members on five continents. Crisis Group’s approach is grounded in field research. Sarajevo and Seoul). Clifford Chance Foundation. & Catherine T. Beirut. Algeria. in Asia. Its President and Chief Executive since July 2009 has been Louise Arbour. French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. German Federal Foreign Office. Nepal. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Rockefeller Brothers Fund and VIVA Trust. it produces analytical reports containing practical recommendations targeted at key international decision-takers. Istanbul. Teams of political analysts are located within or close by countries at risk of outbreak. Korea Foundation. In Africa. Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sri Lanka. Ecuador. working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict. Bangkok. Based on information and assessments from the field. Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kosovo. The organisation currently operates nine regional offices (in Bishkek. Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Haiti and Venezuela. Tajikistan. providing a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world. and in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cyprus.crisisgroup. non-profit. MacArthur Foundation. The following institutional and private foundations have provided funding in recent years: Carnegie Corporation of New York. Islamabad. Connect U. including the media. United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council. Crisis Group’s international headquarters are in Brussels. The Crisis Group Board – which includes prominent figures from the fields of politics. Radcliffe Foundation. Jakarta. Kashmir. Eritrea. United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Cameroon. Chad. Nigeria. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Indonesia. United Kingdom Department for International Development. Egypt. Uganda and Zimbabwe.

26 March 2009 (also available in Spanish). 14 March 2008 (also available in Spanish). Haiti: Stabilisation and Reconstruction after the Quake. The Virtuous Twins: Protecting Human Rights and Improving Security in Colombia. 14 March 2008 (also available in Spanish). Latin America Report N°34. 25 May 2009 (also available in Spanish). Latin America/Caribbean Report N°35. Guatemala: Squeezed Between Crime and Impunity. 22 June 2010 (also available in Spanish). Latin America/ Caribbean Report N°32. 23 July 2008 (also available in Spanish). 13 October 2010 (also available in Spanish). 30 October 2008 (also available in Spanish). 29 April 2008 (also available in Spanish). Latin America Report N°25. 31 May 2011 (also available in Spanish). 28 April 2009. Uribe’s Possible Third Term and Conflict Resolution in Colombia. Latin America Report N°36. Bolivia: Rescuing the New Constitution and Democratic Stability. Post-quake Haiti: Security Depends on Resettlement and Development. 25 July 2011 (also available in Spanish). Latin America Briefing N°25. 31 March 2010. Latin America Report N°31. Latin America Briefing N°22. Haiti: Saving the Environment. 18 September 2008. Preventing Instability and Conflict. Latin America Report N°30. Latin America Report N°29. Latin America/ Caribbean Briefing N°20. Reforming Haiti’s Security Sector. 19 June 2008 (also available in Spanish). Latin America Report N°37. Learning to Walk without a Crutch: The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Haiti 2009: Stability at Risk. Latin America Briefing N°21. Latin America Briefing N°17. 5 November 2009 (also available in Spanish). Improving Security Policy in Colombia. Dirty Politics. Venezuela: Accelerating the Bolivarian Revolution. Latin America Briefing N°18. 28 June 2011. 3 March 2009. 17 June 2011 (also available in Spanish). . Venezuela: Political Reform or Regime Demise?. Latin America/Caribbean Report N°28. Guatemala’s Elections: Clean Polls. Latin America/Caribbean Briefing N°19. Latin America Report N°33. 18 December 2009 (also available in Spanish). Latin America Briefing N°23. 27 October 2010. Latin America Report N°26. Latin America Report N°27. Cutting the Links between Crime and Local Politics: Colombia’s 2011 Elections. Correcting Course: Victims and the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia. Colombia: President Santos’s Conflict Resolution Opportunity. Latin America Briefing N°24. Colombia: Making Military Progress Pay Off. 17 August 2011 Page 34 APPENDIX D CRISIS GROUP REPORTS AND BRIEFINGS ON LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN SINCE 2008 Latin American Drugs I: Losing the Fight. Haiti: The Stakes of the Post-Quake Elections. Latin American Drugs II: Improving Policy and Reducing Harm. Ending Colombia’s FARC Conflict: Dealing the Right Card. 29 June 2010 (also available in Spanish).Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38.

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Morton Abramowitz Former U. Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.S. Turkey Ghassan Salamé Dean. Nobel Peace Prize (2001) Igor Ivanov Former Foreign Affairs Minister of the Russian Federation Nahum Barnea Chief Columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth. Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief Samuel Berger Chair. Institute for Inclusive Security. U. Novelist and journalist. Trade Representative Lawrence Summers Former Director of the US National Economic Council and Secretary of the US Treasury. Israel. Global Head of Canaccord Genuity Frank Giustra President & CEO. Vice Chair. U. Israel Asma Jahangir President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. NATO SecretaryGeneral and Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain George Soros Chairman. Former U. India. and Jordan Permanent Representative to the UN Swanee Hunt Former U. Columbia University.S. Chair. Sabancı Holding.S. United Nations Jessica Tuchman Mathews President. Switzerland Mark Eyskens Former Prime Minister of Belgium Ayo Obe Legal Practitioner. El Salvador and Nigeria. Paris School of International Affairs. President.S.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. Open Society Institute Carla Hills Former U.S. Canaccord Financial Inc.S. Professor of Practice in Investigative Journalism. former Editor in Chief. National Security Advisor Wim Kok Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands .S.S. Enso Capital Management LLC Paul Reynolds President & Chief Executive Officer. Vice Chairman of Hills & Company Emma Bonino Vice President of the Senate. President Emeritus of Harvard University Pär Stenbäck Former Foreign Minister of Finland Lena Hjelm-Wallén Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of Sweden OTHER BOARD MEMBERS Adnan Abu-Odeh Former Political Adviser to King Abdullah II and to King Hussein. Fiore Capital Joschka Fischer Former Foreign Minister of Germany Güler Sabancı Chairperson. Nigeria Yoichi Funabashi Former Editor in Chief. Albright Stonebridge Group LLC. Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Ambassador and Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Mo Ibrahim Founder and Chair. Russia. U. and High Commissioner to the UK Jan Egeland Director. Director.S. Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to Turkey Benjamin Mkapa Former President of Tanzania Uffe Ellemann-Jensen Former Foreign Minister of Denmark Cheryl Carolus Former South African High Commissioner to the UK and Secretary General of the ANC Moisés Naím Senior Associate. 17 August 2011 Page 35 APPENDIX E INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP BOARD OF TRUSTEES CHAIR Thomas R Pickering Former U. Ambassador to the UN. Jordan. Former Minister of International Trade and European Affairs of Italy and European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Ricardo Lagos Former President of Chile Joanne Leedom-Ackerman Former International Secretary of International PEN. Lagos. Ambassador to Austria. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Former UN UnderSecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Javier Solana Former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.. Former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Columbia University. Founder. Former Foreign Affairs Minister of Australia Maria Livanos Cattaui Member of the Board. Europe Lord (Mark) Malloch-Brown Former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Deputy Secretary-General Sheila Coronel Toni Stabile. International Economics Program. Lalit Mansingh Former Foreign Secretary of India. The Asahi Shimbun. Ambassador to the U. Petroplus Holdings.S. Japan Joshua Fink CEO & Chief Investment Officer. Foreign Policy Gareth Evans President Emeritus of Crisis Group. Secretary of Housing and U. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.S. Celtel International Kofi Annan Former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Hunt Alternatives Fund Kenneth Adelman Former U. Wesley Clark PRESIDENT & CEO Louise Arbour Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. Sciences Po Jean-Marie Guéhenno Arnold Saltzman Professor of War and Peace Studies.

Ramos George Robertson Michel Rocard Volker Rüehe Mohamed Sahnoun Salim A.Violence and Politics in Venezuela Crisis Group Latin America Report N°38. Fares Neemat Frem Seth Ginns Rita E. Kimsey Aleksander Kwasniewski Todung Mulya Lubis Allan J. Riordan Shell Statoil ASA Belinda Stronach Talisman Energy Tilleke & Gibbins Kevin Torudag VIVA Trust Yapı Merkezi Construction and Industry Inc. Salim Douglas Schoen Christian Schwarz-Schilling Michael Sohlman Thorvald Stoltenberg William O. Canaccord Financial Inc. Hauser Sir Joseph Hotung Iara Lee & George Gund III Foundation George Kellner Amed Khan Faisel Khan Zelmira Koch Polk Elliott Kulick Liquidnet Jean Manas & Rebecca Haile McKinsey & Company Harriet Mouchly-Weiss Griff Norquist Näringslivets Internationella Råd (NIR) – International Council of Swedish Industry Yves Oltramare Ana Luisa Ponti & Geoffrey R. 17 August 2011 Page 36 PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL A distinguished group of individual and corporate donors providing essential support and expertise to Crisis Group. MacEachen Graça Machel Nobuo Matsunaga Barbara McDougall Matthew McHugh Miklós Németh Christine Ockrent Timothy Ong Olara Otunnu Lord (Christopher) Patten Shimon Peres Victor Pinchuk Surin Pitsuwan Cyril Ramaphosa Fidel V. Martti Ahtisaari Chairman Emeritus Mong Joon Chung Pat Cox Gianfranco Dell’Alba Jacques Delors Alain Destexhe Mou-Shih Ding Gernot Erler Marika Fahlén Stanley Fischer Malcolm Fraser I. Taylor Leo Tindemans Ed van Thijn Simone Veil Shirley Williams Grigory Yavlinski Uta Zapf Ernesto Zedillo George Mitchell Chairman Emeritus HRH Prince Turki al-Faisal Hushang Ansary Óscar Arias Ersin Arıoğlu Richard Armitage Diego Arria Zainab Bangura Shlomo Ben-Ami Christoph Bertram Alan Blinken Lakhdar Brahimi Zbigniew Brzezinski Kim Campbell Jorge Castañeda Naresh Chandra Eugene Chien Joaquim Alberto Chissano Victor Chu . Mala Gaonkar Frank Holmes Steve Killelea George Landegger Ford Nicholson & Lisa Wolverton Harry Pokrandt Ian Telfer Neil Woodyer INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL Individual and corporate supporters who play a key role in Crisis Group’s efforts to prevent deadly conflict. Ed Bachrach Stanley Bergman & Edward Bergman Harry Bookey & Pamela Bass-Bookey Chevron Neil & Sandra DeFeo Family Foundation Equinox Partners Fares I.K. SENIOR ADVISERS Former Board Members who maintain an association with Crisis Group. Gujral Max Jakobson James V. Hoguet Michael L. APCO Worldwide Inc. and whose advice and support are called on (to the extent consistent with any other office they may be holding at the time).